Many of us will fondly recall the discussion by Third Circuit Judge Edward Becker (1933-2006) on ERISA preemption in the case of DeFelice v. Aetna (which was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court – read about it here and here). In that case Judge Becker discusses how trying to understand ERISA preamble is like a “descent into a Serbonian bog wherein judges are forced to don logical blinders and split the linguistic atom to decide even the most routine cases.” (I discussed Judge Becker’s opinion here.) While not related to the same issues as were decided in the DeFelice case, I was reminded of Judge Becker’s discussion when I saw that the Fifth Circuit had recently withdrawn its opinion pertaining to ERISA preemption in the case of Bank of Louisiana v. Aetna. You can access the prior opinion here and the latest opinion issued October 18, 2006 here. The case is interesting because it shows how, even in trying to resolve contract claims between employers and insurers, the whole tangled mess of ERISA preemption can be a real challenge.
(Also, it seems unusual to find folks arguing that they are ERISA fiduciaries, but that is exactly what happened in the Bank of Louisiana case where the insurer was trying to claim that ERISA preemption applied. See page 9 of the October 18th opinion.)