Metropolitan Life Ins. Company v. Taylor

PETITIONER: Metropolitan Life Ins. Company
RESPONDENT: Taylor
LOCATION: Oglala Sioux Tribe

DOCKET NO.: 85-686
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 481 US 58 (1987)
ARGUED: Jan 21, 1987
DECIDED: Apr 06, 1987

ADVOCATES:
David M. Davis - for petitioner
Peter Edward Scheer - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Metropolitan Life Ins. Company v. Taylor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 21, 1987 in Metropolitan Life Ins. Company v. Taylor

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Davis, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

David M. Davis:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

The issue presented by this case is whether a claim filed in state court for disability benefits under an ERISA-covered welfare plan is a claim rising under federal law by either federal preemption or falls within the original jurisdiction of the district court by reason of an express grant of jurisdiction in the federal statute so that it may properly be removed to the federal court.

General Motors Corporation provides disability benefits to its employees under the General Motors Insurance Program.

General Motors Corporation is the plan administrator.

The named fiduciary is the finance committee of the General Motors Board of Directors.

Disabled employees can receive sickness and accident benefits providing 75 percent of normal compensation for up to 52 weeks.

The benefit is provided through Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

In addition, General Motors provides an additional benefit called salary continuation benefit, equal to 25 percent of normal compensation for up to 26 weeks.

The salary continuation benefit is provided solely by General Motors, is not insured and is self-funded.

Mr. Taylor commenced a sick leave of absence in 1980.

During his sick leave and through July of 1980 he received both sickness and accident benefits and salary continuation benefits.

Benefits ceased upon a determination that Mr. Taylor was no longer disabled.

Mr. Taylor was advised to report to the General Motors medical department and there advised that he was capable of returning to employment.

His continued absence from employment caused his termination of employment.

Thereafter he filed a lawsuit against both General Motors and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company seeking the immediate re-implementation of all benefits.

The complaint referred specifically to sickness and accident benefits provided by Metropolitan and salary continuation benefits provided by General Motors.

In addition, the plaintiff sought extra contractual damages.

The action was removed by General Motors Corporation to the federal district court based on a claim that the claim arose within the original jurisdiction of the federal court and that any claim for benefits had to arise under federal law.

In 1981, the District Court considered a motion to remand filed by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff at that time conceded that he sought disability salary continuation benefits directly from General Motors and his motion to remand was denied.

Thereafter a summary judgment was granted in favor of the defendants.

The Sixth Circuit, upon consideration of the case, found no federal jurisdiction.

They found that based on three reasons.

They refused, despite the statutory and legislative history, they refused to consider the claims under ERISA were to be treated in similar fashion as arising under the laws of the United States as those under the Labor Management Relations Act.

They further felt that the plaintiff had limited his complaint to state law principles and thus the well-pleaded complaint rule precluded removal.

And lastly, they interpreted General Motors' reference to ERISA as raising only a defense under federal law and thus interpreted the Franchise Tax Board decision of this Court as precluding removal.

Because Taylor's suit necessarily arises under federal law and because it's within the original jurisdiction of the federal court, it is properly removable.

The Federal Removal Statute applies to claims within the jurisdiction, within the original jurisdiction of the federal court and also to claims arising under federal law.

ERISA, at Section 502, authorizes a participant to commence a civil action to recover benefits due him under the plan, to enforce his rights under the plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under the plan.