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Transamerica Retirement Solutions v. Addison

In 2014, a retirement plan operating by a local health provider in Mississippi’s Gulf Coast area suffered catastrophic losses that required court appointment of a special fiduciary to manage the plan. Ultimately, the plan cut benefits by 25% and eliminated cost-of-living increases. Beneficiaries of the plan filed several lawsuits in a Mississippi state court against Transamerica, which provided actuarial and administrative services to the plan and was allegedly responsible for its underfunding. One of the suits, Addison v. Transamerica, was brought by 272 individually named plan beneficiaries. Although the case was not a class action, Transamerica removed it to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), arguing that the lawsuit fell within CAFA’s conferral of federal jurisdiction over certain “mass actions,” defined as cases in which 100 or more individuals jointly bring claims. The plaintiffs moved to remand the case to the state court on the ground that it falls within CAFA’s exception for cases in which “all of the claims in the action arise from an event or occurrence in the State in which the action was filed and that allegedly resulted in injuries in that State or in States contiguous to that State.”

The district court granted the motion to remand, and Transamerica applied for leave to appeal. The Fifth Circuit, without opinion, denied leave to appeal. Transamerica then filed a petition for certiorari, arguing that the courts of appeals are split over whether claims that arise out of a defendants’ course of conduct carried out over time involve “an event or occurrence” within the meaning of the exception.

Public Citizen served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court. The brief in opposition to the petition explained that there is no circuit split regarding cases like this one, where the defendant’s conduct culminates in a single focused event, such as the failure of the pension plan in this case. The brief also explained that the Fifth Circuit’s denial of leave to appeal did not constitute a ruling on the issue raised in the petition because Transamerica did not argue that issue in its petition for leave to appeal. The Supreme Court denied Transamerica’s petition.