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ERISA Litigation: Judging the Sufficiency of ERISA Claims Under the Twombly/Iqbal Plausibility Standard

Journal of Pension Benefits

In this article, Brian Hill and Michael Khalil* discuss the sufficiency of complaints in light of the Twombly/Iqbal "plausibility" standard. "It is important to note that neither case upsets the well-established rule that, when deciding a motion to dismiss, a court must accept as true all allegations contained in a complaint," the authors said. "Nonetheless, courts continue to struggle with the meaning of the plausibility standard. Unsurprisingly, the decisions are inconsistent and sometimes, if not often, hard to reconcile. This is no less true in the ERISA context."

This article examines three fact-patterns dealing with the plausibility standard in two types of ERISA cases: one involving a claim for benefits under ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B), and the other two involving allegations of fiduciary breaches under ERISA Section 502(a). Based on other similar cases, the authors determine that the Twombly/Iqbal standard forces courts to scrutinize facts at the beginning of a case and that the courts are more willing to dismiss a complaint they believe to be insufficient under the plausibility standard.

*Former Miller & Chevalier attorney