Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...
Aug. 11 — A doctor who has filed over 20 ERISA cases in the past year against multiple companies lost her latest bid to recover unpaid medical benefits against Areva Inc. and may face sanctions from a federal court in Virginia ( Griffin v. Areva, Inc. , 2016 BL 258969, W.D. Va., No. 6:16-cv-00029, 8/10/16 ).
Judge Norman K. Moon granted Aug. 10 Areva's motion to dismiss the doctor's lawsuit, holding that her claims were precluded because another federal court in Georgia had already rendered a final judgment on the matter. The doctor has a demonstrated history of filing numerous, duplicative claims in other courts and against similarly-situated defendants, Moon said. However, Moon declined to issue a pre-filing injunction against the doctor until she explains why she shouldn't be sanctioned for bad faith and baseless litigation.
According to court documents, W.A. Griffin, a Georgia dermatologist, has filed more than 20 similar Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuits to recover benefits against major companies. Those companies include Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., Navistar Inc., General Electric Co., Aetna Health Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and SunTrust Bank Inc.
In his ruling, Moon said the complaint in Griffin's prior case against Areva alleged claims identical to those she alleged in this lawsuit. In the prior case, the Northern District of Georgia dismissed Griffin's claims because the beneficiary's insurance policy prohibited the assignment of benefits to physicians in Griffin's position.
Because the prior case ended with a final judgment on the merits, Griffin's claims were precluded, the court said.
Areva, a health insurance company based in Virginia, also requested that the court issue a pre-filing injunction against Griffin. It argued that Griffin's “repetitive and unmeritorius lawsuits” were a burden on federal courts and that her repeated filing served no purpose but to harass defendants.
The court noted that the cases filed by Griffin displayed the kind of “vexatious, wasteful, or duplicative behavior courts have found sufficient to support a pre-filing injunction.” However, the court noted that Griffin's case was the first she filed in the Western District of Virginia and was only the second case against Areva.
Because Griffin hadn't been sanctioned in a Virginia jurisdiction, the court said it was in no position to conclude that a less drastic alternative sanction would fail to deter future baseless litigation.
“The court will consider whether Griffin should be ordered to pay Areva's attorneys' fees as a sanction for its having to defend against this baseless litigation,” the court concluded.
Griffin represented herself, pro se. Troutman Sanders LLP represented Areva.
To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)