Hicks v. Fleming Cos.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
961 F.2d 537 (1992)
Johnny Hicks (plaintiff) worked as a truck driver for White Swan, Inc., a subsidiary of Fleming Companies, Inc. (collectively, Fleming) (defendants). Fleming sponsored several employee-benefit plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), including a long-term disability plan that was available to clerical employees and employees whose employment was considered exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a truck driver, Hicks did not fall into either of those categories. As required by ERISA, Fleming provided eligible employees with a summary plan description (SPD) for the long-term disability plan, which Hicks, as a nonparticipant, did not receive. In January 1988, Fleming provided Hicks with a booklet entitled Your 1988 Total Compensation Report that purported to summarize the main elements of Fleming’s various benefit plans. The booklet was individualized for Hicks in that it included his date of birth, Social Security number, hire date, and elections under various benefit plans. Evidently due to a computer glitch, the booklet did not reflect Hicks’s ineligibility for the long-term disability plan but rather stated that after 180 days of disability Hicks could receive $1,615 per month. The booklet did not represent itself as an SPD and stated that it was a simple but comprehensive summary containing personalized information on Fleming’s benefits. The booklet did not contain certain information that ERISA and its implementing regulations required in an SPD, such as the plan’s name and type of administration, the name and address of the person designated to accept legal process on behalf of the plan, the source of financing for the plan, and the procedures for submitting claims. There were also disclaimers warning that the information was only a summary, benefit amounts were not final, and the terms were subject to those in the plans themselves. Hicks became disabled after a May 1988 workplace injury and was advised that he was ineligible for the long-term disability plan. Hicks sued Fleming, contending that the booklet constituted an SPD that governed his eligibility. The district court granted summary judgment to Fleming, finding that the booklet did not meet the minimum content and information requirements of ERISA § 1022(b) and was thus not an SPD. Hicks appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wiener, J.)
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