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Mbi Energy Services v. Hoch

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 3, 2019

MBI Energy Services Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Robert Hoch Defendant-Appellant Charles Kannebecker, as a stakeholder; Law Office of Charles Kannebecker, LLC, as a stakeholder Defendants

          Submitted: March 12, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Bismarck

          Before GRUENDER, BENTON, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

          GRUENDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Robert Hoch appeals the district court[1] order granting summary judgment to MBI Energy Services, denying Hoch's motion for partial summary judgment, and dismissing his counterclaims. We affirm.

         Hoch was a member and beneficiary of a self-funded employee benefit plan ("the Plan") sponsored and administered by MBI. The Plan provided Hoch $68, 210.38 in medical benefits after he was injured in an accident. He also reached a settlement with the tortfeasor responsible for his injury and received compensation from the tortfeasor's insurer. Because Hoch was compensated twice for his injury, MBI brought suit seeking reimbursement of the benefits it paid him under the Plan. MBI eventually reduced its original claim of $68, 210.38 by one-third to $45, 473.59 to offset the attorneys' fees Hoch incurred in achieving his settlement.

         Hoch denied that the Plan authorized reimbursement and also brought a counterclaim alleging that MBI acted improperly by initially seeking reimbursement of the full $68, 210.38. The district court granted summary judgment to MBI, and it denied Hoch's motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed his counterclaim. Hoch appealed.

         We first consider whether MBI was entitled to summary judgment on its reimbursement claim. We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo and may affirm on any ground supported by the record. Moyle v. Anderson, 571 F.3d 814, 817 (8th Cir. 2009). Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") mandates that every employee benefit plan "be established and maintained pursuant to a written instrument" that "provide[s] for one or more named fiduciaries who jointly or severally shall have authority to control and manage the operation and administration of the plan." 29 U.S.C. § 1102(a)(1). Each plan must also

(1) provide a procedure for establishing and carrying out a funding policy and method consistent with the objectives of the plan and the requirements of [ERISA],
(2) describe any procedure under the plan for the allocation of responsibilities for the operation and administration of the plan . . .,
(3) provide a procedure for amending such plan, and for identifying the persons who have authority to amend the plan, and
(4) specify the basis on which payments are made to and from the plan.

Id. § 1102(b). ERISA further requires that participants and beneficiaries be given a "summary plan description." Id. ยง 1022(a). The summary plan description "shall be written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant, and shall be sufficiently accurate and comprehensive to reasonably apprise such participants and ...


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