ERISA protects employees in the administration of
employer-sponsored benefit plans. When a party is injured
by third parties and a health and welfare benefit plan
governed by ERISA pays benefits, conflicts have arisen
between insurers seeking subrogation and individuals
seeking full recovery. Injured parties claim they should
not have to reimburse insurers while insurers deny
responsibility for damage caused by third parties. The
Supreme Court set the standard for plan fiduciary rights
to ERISA subrogation in Sereboff v. Mid Atlantic Medical
Services, Inc. Sereboff held that the plain wording of 29
U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3) means equitable relief available under
the historically divided courts of law and equity. The
Court reasoned that the statute specifies only "equitable
relief' rather than specific categories of equitable relief,
such as constructive trusts and equitable liens.
Controversy continues as scholars criticize the standard as
unsupported by ERISA and contrary to ERISA's purposes.
This Note asserts that the standard is supported by statute
and precedent: Mertens v. Hewitt Associates and Great-
West Life & Annuity Insurance Co. v. Knudson. This
Note concludes that the Court established a workable
standard, the ultimate legitimacy of which lies in the
equitable balance it achieves between fiduciary rights to
enforce ERISA plan subrogation provisions and the
protection of beneficiaries. The critics should accept the
Court's equitable solution: equitable relief under the
Frazier, Ashley A. P.
"ERISA Subrogation and the Controversy over Sereboff: Silencing the Critics, the Divided Bench Is a Legitimate Standard,"
Georgia Law Review: Vol. 45:
2, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/glr/vol45/iss2/5