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First Circuit Reviews Top Hat Plan Benefits Denial for Abuse of Discretion
Proskauer's ERISA Practice CenterLink to more items from this source
Apr. 29, 2015

"On appeal, [the employee] argued that the district court ... should have followed decisions from the Third and Eighth Circuits holding that top hat plans are unilateral contracts subject to ordinary contract principles and that determinations made under such plans should be reviewed de novo. The First Circuit declined to consider whether such a categorical rule for top hat plans should apply. Instead, it ruled that the distinction between top hat and other plans has no meaning where, as here, the plan grants discretion to the plan administrator. According to the Court, the grant of discretion, even under ordinary contract principles, confers a reasonableness standard equivalent to the deferential review standard ordinarily applied under ERISA." [Niebauer v. Crane & Co., No. 14-2059 (1st Cir. Apr. 21, 2015)]

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