On March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual) operates a self-insured employee health plan through a third-party administrator. Vermont state law requires such plans to file with the State reports concerning claims data and certain other information. When Vermont subpoenaed claims data from Liberty Mutual’s third-party administrator, Liberty Mutual sued and argued that the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempted the Vermont statute. The district court found no preemption and ruled in favor of Vermont. On appeal a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed and held that ERISA preemption did apply.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether the Second Circuit erred in holding that ERISA preempts Vermont's health care database law as applied to the third-party administrator for a self-funded ERISA plan.
By a vote of 6-2, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Second Circuit. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that ERISA’s express preemption clause requires invalidation of the Vermont reporting statute as applied to ERISA plans. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan. Justices Thomas and Breyer also filed concurring opinions. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.
To discuss the case, we have Joshua P. Ackerman, who is an Associate at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP.