Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I have always claimed to be a generalist in labor and employment law. I like traditional labor law, as much as employment discrimination law, as much as employee benefits law. But my benefits law expertise is mostly on the labor law side of ERISA (which governs only private-sector employee benefit plans).
So imagine my surprise when I learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted cert. today in an employee benefits preemption case and it did not involve ERISA. But here you are, as reported by the SCOTUS blog:
Title: Health Care Service v. Pollitt
Issue: Whether the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act, 5 U.S.C. § 8902(m)(1), preempts a state court lawsuit filed against a government contractor administering such benefits.
Don't know much about the FEHBA, but it is a preemption case and this conservative Court has shown a great love for broad preemption doctrines, including complete preemption. It will be interesting to see if the Court applies lessons from ERISA preemption cases to decide this one.
One more thing: for civil procedure geeks, there is an interesting question of subject matter jurisdiction which is based on whether the Department of Labor directed the health care insurer to deny coverage to the federal employee. If so, there would be a basis for removal jurisdiction and perhaps dismissal based on preemption. Sounds like a factual issue to be decided under a 12(b)(1) scenario, but what do I know, I just teach Civ Pro once a year?
One thing I know for sure, subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived and so the issue is very much live.