Tuesday, December 02, 2014

ERISA "Church Plan" Definition Certified For Interlocutory Appeal To 9th Circuit

In Rollins v. Dignity Health, Inc., (ND CA, Nov. 26, 2014), a California federal district court, reversing it own earlier decision, certified for interlocutory appeal to the 9th Circuit its ruling that the pension plan for employees of  Dignity Health, a 16-state non-profit Catholic health care provider, does not qualify for the "church plan" exemption in ERISA. The court said that it is now persuaded that there is a "controlling question of law" involved such that an interlocutory appeal would be appropriate. The court said:
Dignity estimates having to spend several thousand additional attorney hours, costing in excess of $500,000, to respond to the currently pending and expected discovery requests, in addition to incurring several hundred thousand dollars in attorneys’ fees in responding to Plaintiff’s currently pending motions.... These costs could be avoided, perhaps entirely, by a reversal at the Court of Appeals.
The district court stayed all further proceedings in the case until the 9th Circuit decides whether to take the appeal.  If the 9th Circuit were to decide the plan qualifies as a church plan, the court could ultimately be faced with plaintiffs' argument that the church plan exemption violates the Establishment Clause. Sacramento Business Journal reports on the court's action.