ERISA is short for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which was enacted to curb fraudulent or negligent management of health and pension benefit plans provided by employers and labor unions.
Bringing an ERISA claim is complicated and at the very least, you must identify not only the benefits you have been denied or improperly allocated, but also who is responsible for your loss of benefit.
The easy target in an ERISA claim is the benefit plan fiduciary because ultimately, the fiduciary owes you a legal duty of care in not only advising you, but maintaining reasonable plan costs as well.
Sometimes, though, there are other parties responsible for harm you’ve experienced and those parties are called “knowing participants”.
The definition of a knowing participant under ERISA has been largely determined by case law. In a 2000 ruling handed down by the United States Supreme Court case Harris Trust & Sav. Bank v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., the court asserted that ERISA’s Section 502(a)(3) does in fact authorize a plaintiff to sue a non-fiduciary for the role they played in the plaintiff’s lost benefits.
The case law establishes that where a non-fiduciary knew that a transaction was prohibited, but yet they participated in the prohibited act nonetheless, then a plaintiff may pursue action against them.
If you are able to prove that a knowing participant contributed to mismanagement of your health or pension benefits, you will be able to claim equitable relief from them. Under ERISA, equitable relief is often limited to actions like making the defendant repay anything they received illegitimately, injunctions or specific enforcement of action.
Because the relief sought in a knowing participant claim differs from what you might claim from a fiduciary, it is vitally important that your attorney realize that the claims should be carefully crafted so that the court does not kick it out of court.
Identifying a knowing participant can be difficult and although the penalties imposed upon them are not as severe as the liability a fiduciary may face, it is nonetheless important to both hold knowing participants accountable and require them to cease any destructive behavior.
A successful claim against a knowing participant often requires the following:
If you or your loved one suspects that you’ve not been provided with the benefits owed to you through an employer’s benefit plan, then you need not only legal advice, but legal advice from an experienced ERISA attorney. Winnetka’s ERISA attorneys at Michael Bartolic, LLC are dedicated to understanding every complicated component of the law in order to help you get what is owed to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation of your case.