May 2011 Archives

May 26, 2011

Employee Benefits-IRS Provides Guidance On Plans For Self-Employed Individuals

In the latest Retirement News for Employers (Spring 2011), the IRS provided guidance on the type of retirement plans that may be maintained by self-employed individuals (i.e., sole proprietors and partners). It is interesting to compare the contribution/benefit limits which apply to each plan. Here they are, according to the IRS:

(1) Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (a SIMPLE IRA Plan)-each year, the individual can contribute all of his or her net earnings from self-employment, up to $11,500 (plus $2,500 if at least age 50) in salary reduction contributions, and either a 2% fixed contribution or a 3% matching contribution.

(2) Simplified Employee Pension (a SEP)-each year, the individual can contribute up to the lesser of : (a) 25% of his or her net earnings from self-employment (not including his/her contributions) or (b) $49,000.

(3) 401(k) Plan-each year, the individual can make: (a) salary deferrals up to $16,500 (plus $5,500 if at least age 50) of his or her pay from the business either on a pre-tax basis or as a designated Roth contribution and (b) an additional 25% of his or her net earnings from self-employment (not including his/her contributions), up to $49,000 including salary deferrals.

(4) Profit-Sharing Plan-each year, the individual can contribute up to 25% of compensation (not including his/her own contributions) or $49,000, if less.

(5) Money Purchase Plan-each year, the individual is required to contribute a fixed level of pay, according to a formula set forth in the plan, up to 25% of compensation (not including his/her own contributions) or $49,000, if less.

(6) Defined Benefit Plan (can be a traditional defined benefit plan or a cash balance plan)-the individual may receive a maximum annual benefit of up to $195,000 after retirement.
The dollar figures above apply in 2011 and are subject to cost-of-living adjustments. Remember, if the individual's business has employees, they are entitled to make and receive contributions, or to receive benefits, in amounts determined under the Internal Revenue Code and the underlying regulations

May 25, 2011

Employee Benefits-IRS Says That Higher Education Organizations Have Been Asked to Confirm Compliance with Universal Availability

The IRS's Retirement News for Employers (Spring 2011) reports the following on compliance by 403(b) plans: A new Employee Plans Compliance Unit ("EPCU") project focuses on how higher education organizations apply the universal availability rule to their 403(b) plans. Under this rule, if a 403(b) plan permits any employee to make salary deferrals to the plan, then it must offer the same opportunity to all employees (with limited optional exclusions). Higher education organizations include:





--institutes of technology; and

--other college level organizations (e.g. vocational and trade schools) that award academic degrees or professional certifications.

The EPCU began sending compliance check letters in April to a national sample of over 300 higher education organizations. An organization's failure to respond to the contact letter by providing the requested information could result in further action or examination of the organization's 403(b) plan.

Organizations that appear to comply with the universal availability rule will receive a closing letter. The EPCU will follow up with organizations that appear non-compliant to help them analyze the problem and make necessary correction. Organizations can self-correct their plan errors. Correction for a universal availability failure generally includes giving each excluded eligible employee the opportunity to participate. The organization must also make employer contributions to restore improperly excluded eligible employees' lost opportunity to make salary deferrals. An organization's failure to correct the error could result in the loss of favorable tax benefits for its 403(b) plan and its employees. The IRS intends to report the findings from this project.

May 24, 2011

ERISA-Fourth Circuit Rules That The Plan Administrator Did Not Abuse Its Discretion In Denying Benefits Under A Change In Control and Severance Pay Plan; Conflict of Interest Is (Part of) One Of Eight Factors To Consider In Testing Abuse

In Lamb v. Nextel Communications of the Mid-Atlantic, Incorporated, No. 10-2252 (4th Cir. 2011), the plaintiff, Edward Lamb ("Lamb"), had filed a law suit under ERISA. He claimed that that the defendant, Nextel Communications of the Mid-Atlantic, Incorporated ("Nextel"), had wrongly denied him benefits under Nextel's Change of Control Retention Bonus and Severance Pay Plan (the "Plan"). The district court upheld this denial, and Lamb appealed. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling.

In analyzing the case, the Fourth Circuit Court noted that the Plan explicitly states that the plan administrator-here Nextel acting through a committee- "shall promulgate any rules and regulations it deems necessary in order to carry out the purposes of the Plan or to interpret the terms and conditions of the Plan." It further states that the plan administrator "shall determine the rights of any employee of the Company to any Retention Bonus or Severance Compensation." The Court found that this language provided Nextel with sufficient discretion to warrant the deferential review of its decision to deny Lamb the benefits he was claiming under the Plan.

The Court said that, when a deferential review applies, a court will not disturb the plan administrator's decision, unless the decision is unreasonable. In testing for reasonableness, the court will consider 8 factors: (1) the plan's language; (2) the plan's purposes and goals; (3) the adequacy of the materials considered to make the decision and the degree to which they support it; (4) whether the plan administrator's interpretation was consistent with other provisions in, and earlier interpretations of, the plan; (5) whether the decision making process was reasoned and principled; (6) whether the decision was consistent with the procedural and substantive requirements of ERISA; (7) any external standard relevant to the exercise of discretion; and (8) the plan administrator's motives and any conflict of interest it may have.

In this case, Nextel denied Lamb the benefits he was claiming under the Plan, since it concluded that he voluntarily withdrew from the company, after rejecting an offer of continued employment. This made him ineligible for the second half of his retention bonus and severance compensation under the Plan. Under the 8 factors listed above, the Fourth Circuit Court held that Nextel's conclusion was not unreasonable. Thus, the conclusion must be upheld.

Querry: Here, the Fourth Circuit Court uses conflict of interest as only part of one of 8 factors in determining the reasonableness of a plan administrator's decision. This may be giving less weight to a conflict of interest than the Supreme Court intended in Metro. Life Ins. v. Glenn.

May 23, 2011

ERISA- Fourth Circuit Holds That Insurer Must Return Premiums Under ERISA Section 502(a)(3) (But It Doesn't Have To Pay Life Insurance Benefits)

In McCravy v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Nos. 10-1074, 10-1131 (4th Cir. 2011), the plaintiff, Debbie McCravy ("McCravy"), sued Defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife"), alleging, among other things, breach of fiduciary duty, and seeking damages under the "other appropriate equitable relief" provision of section 502(a)(3) of ERISA. The district court granted summary judgment to McCravy. However, it limited her damages to the return of her premiums. Both parties appealed. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment.

At work, McCravy had participated in a life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment plan (the "Plan"). The Plan was issued and administered by MetLife. It provided that an insured-such as MCCravy- could purchase accidental death and dismemberment coverage for "eligible dependent children." McCravy elected to obtain such coverage under the Plan for her daughter Leslie, with McCravy herself as the beneficiary. McCravy paid premiums, which were accepted and retained by MetLife. Later, Leslie was murdered at age 25. McCravy, filed a claim for benefits. MetLife denied McCravy's claim on the grounds that Leslie did not, at the time of her death, qualify for coverage under the Plan's "eligible dependent children" provision. The Plan defines "eligible dependent children" as children of the insured who are unmarried, dependent upon the insured for financial support, and either (a) under the age of 19 or (b) under the age of 24 if enrolled full-time in school. According to MetLife, because Leslie was 25 at the time of her death, she no longer met this definition As a result, MetLife denied McCravy's claim and attempted to refund the premiums retained to provide coverage for Leslie. McCravy, however, refused to accept the refund and filed suit instead.

The Fourth Circuit Court said that, in a lawsuit seeking recovery under ERISA section 502(a)(3), the plaintiff is limited to equitable relief. The court cannot impose personal liability on the defendant, but it may restore to the plaintiff particular funds or property in the defendant's possession . Here, McCravy seeks a monetary award in the amount of the life insurance benefits lost. But McCravy is not the true owner of any funds in MetLife's possession, other than the premiums MetLife had received. Thus, the district court did not err in limiting McCravy's damages to the premiums withheld by MetLife (presumably, the premiums must be returned because McCravy never had the coverage on her daughter's life under the Plan). The Fourth Circuit Court also rejected recovery on the theory of estoppel, since (1) estoppel cannot be used to vary the terms of the Plan, under which-in this case- the life insurance benefits were not payable and (2) McCravy did not reasonably rely on any mistatement by MetLife.

Question: Does the Fourth Circuit's ruling on the recovery permissible under section 502(a)(3) need to be thought through again under the Supreme Court's ruling in Cigna Corp. v. Amara (5/16/11)? In this case, I'm not sure that there is actually any breach of fiduciary duty ( particularly a breach of disclosure duty) to be remedied under section 502(a)(3), so Cigna Corp. would not be applicable.

May 18, 2011

ERISA-A Word On Summary Plan Descriptions In Cigna Corporation v. Amara

Further to yesterday's blog, the Supreme Court came to an interesting conclusion on summary plan descriptions in Cigna Corporation v. Amara (5/16/11). It said that "we conclude that the summary documents, important as they are, provide communications with beneficiaries about the plan, but that their statements do not themselves constitute the terms of the plan for purposes of §502(a)(1)(B) [of ERISA]". This conclusion meant that the summary plan descriptions could not supply terms that would be the basis for benefits that a court could award under §502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA.

However, the statement appears to contradict a number of cases, which said or indicated that a summary plan description is a "plan document" which can be the source of plan terms, or that the terms appearing in a summary plan description will apply instead of inconsistent terms appearing in the official plan document, when the summary plan description's terms are more favorable to participants than those in the official document. It remains to be seen what the courts will now do, as far as using a summary plan description to interpret or apply a plan.

May 17, 2011

ERISA-Supreme Court Rules That A Court May Reform A Plan Under ERISA Section 502(a)(3), But Not Under ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B)

In Cigna Corporation v. Amara (5/16/11), the Supreme Court was asked to review whether reformation of a plan is permitted under ERISA §502(a).

In this case, the defendant, CIGNA Corporation ("CIGNA"), converted its defined benefit pension plan to a cash balance plan. Under the defined benefit plan, a retiring employee would receive a pension benefit in the form of an annuity, which was calculated on the basis of his preretirement salary and length of service. Under the cash balance plan, in general, a retiring employee would receive a lump sum benefit, which was calculated on the basis of a beginning account balance, plus a defined annual contribution from CIGNA as increased by compound interest. The participant's beginning account balance was the actuarial equivalent of his accrued benefit under the defined benefit plan. The plaintiffs, representing approximately 25,000 participants and other beneficiaries of the plan, challenged the conversion. They claimed, in part, that CIGNA had failed to give them proper notice of the conversion, particularly because the cash balance plan in certain respects provided them with less generous benefits, in violation of ERISA( primarily the notice and disclosure requirements of ERISA §§102(a), 104(b) and 204(h)).

The District Court agreed that the disclosures made by CIGNA violated its obligations under ERISA. In determining relief, the District Court found that CIGNA's notice failures had caused the employees "likely harm." The District Court then reformed the new plan and ordered CIGNA to pay benefits accordingly. It found legal authority for doing so in ERISA §502(a)(1)(B) (authorizing a plan "participant or beneficiary" to bring a civil action to "recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan"). The defendants appealed this decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the District Court's decision. The defendants then appealed to the Supreme Court. The issue for the Supreme Court: Did the District Court apply the correct legal standard, namely, a "likely harm" standard, in determining that CIGNA's notice violations caused its employees sufficient injury to warrant legal relief.

On this issue, the Supreme Court said that it must first consider whether ERISA §502(a)(1)(B) even authorizes the relief the District Court provided-namely, plan reformation. The Supreme Court concluded that §502(a)(1)(B) does not authorize such relief. Nothing in that Section allows a court to reform or otherwise alter a plan. However, ERISA §502(a)(3) offers helpful relief in this case and thus provides the basis for reformation or at least a similar remedy.

The Supreme Court said that, specifically, § 502(a)(3) authorizes "appropriate equitable relief " to address violations of ERISA or the terms of the plan. This relief encompasses those categories of relief that were typically available in equity, such as affirmative and negative injunctions, mandamus, and restitution. It will be up to the District Court to fashion the specific appropriate remedy in this case, using the following principles. The relevant standard of harm for determining the appropriate equitable relief will depend on the equitable theory by which the District Court provides relief. There is no general requirement that "detrimental reliance" be proven to obtain this relief. If this requirement arises, it is because the specific remedy being contemplated imposes that requirement. For example, when a court exercises authority under §502(a)(3) to impose a remedy equivalent to estoppel, a showing of detrimental reliance must be made. However, detrimental reliance is not required for: (1) reformation where a fraudulent suppression, omission, or insertion materially affected the substance of a contract or (2) a "surcharge", that is, monetary relief to compensate a participant for a loss resulting from a breach of fiduciary duty or to prevent a fiduciary's unjust enrichment. A surcharge can be imposed only upon a showing of actual harm, which may arise from detrimental reliance or from the loss of a right protected by ERISA. Thus, to obtain relief by surcharge for violations of ERISA §§102(a) and 104(b), a plan participant must show that the violation caused injury, but need show only actual harm and causation, not detrimental reliance.

After providing this guidance on how to fashion appropriate equitable relief under ERISA §502(a)(3), the Supreme Court vacated the District Court's decision and remanded the case back to the District Court.

May 16, 2011

Employee Benefits -IRS Lists Common Mistakes in Voluntary Correction Program (VCP) Submissions

The Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") has updated its list on common mistakes it finds in applications filed under the Voluntary Correction Program ("VCP") for retirement plans. These mistakes include those pertaining to general information, fees, representations, administrative procedures, excise tax waivers and late amendment failures. Some of the specific mistakes are:

-the compliance fee was not included or was not calculated correctly;

-the applicant enclosed a single check for the VCP submission and for the determination letter application user fee, when separate checks are required;

- the applicant used its Social Security Number instead of its Employer Identification Number;

- plan assets and participant count information was not provided;

- the applicant did not submit a valid Power of Attorney form (Form 2848);

-the submission did not state a plan qualification failure under Code §401(a);

-the applicant did not include specific proposed changes to administrative procedures, or the proposed changes did not address how they would prevent the failure from recurring; and

- for late amendment failures, the applicant did not specify the EGTRRA, PPA or HEART provisions that were not timely reflected in the plan, or the plan section that includes the amendment not timely adopted.

May 11, 2011

Employment-DOL Makes Employees' Own Timesheet Available.

A U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") announcement: The DOL has made available its first application for smartphones, a timesheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, users conveniently can track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. This new technology is significant because, instead of relying on their employers' records, workers now can keep their own records. This information could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records. The timesheet is here.

May 9, 2011

ERISA-Third Circuit Rules That Application For Pension Benefits Is Untimely, So Suit For Benefits May Not Be Brought

In Karp v. Trucking Employees Of North Jersey Welfare Fund, Inc., No. 10-2777 (Third Cir. 2011), the Court faced the question of whether the plaintiff's law suit under ERISA, pertaining to the denial of his application for pension benefits, is time barred.

The plaintiff is a participant in the Trucking Employees of North Jersey Welfare Fund, Inc., which is a pension fund associated with Local 560 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Fund"). The Fund provides that a participant must have at least 15 years of pension credits to qualify for a pension. The plaintiff filed an application for pension benefits from the Fund. However, on February 24, 1999, his application was denied in a letter from the Fund, because he had only 10 years of pension credits. More than eight years later, on July 30, 2007, the plaintiff sought reconsideration of the denial of his pension application. Reconsideration was denied on March 12, 2008.

The plaintiff filed this suit, on February 19, 2009, under Section 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA (generally, permitting a participant to bring a suit for benefits). By the time the suit was filed, the plaintiff had only 13 and 1/2 years of pension credits. However, the plaintiff asserted that, since he had over 10 years of pension credits, he was entitled to a portion of a pension from the Fund under applicable case law. The District Court held that the plaintiff's suit was untimely. The plaintiff appealed. The Third Circuit Court agreed with the District Court and affirmed its holding.

The Third Circuit Court said that ERISA does not set any limitations period for non-fiduciary claims-as are the claims here- brought pursuant to its civil enforcement provision in Section 502(a)(1)(B). For such claims, the courts apply the statute of limitations for the state claim most analogous to the ERISA claim. In this case, the analogous state law statute of limitations is New Jersey's six-year limitations period that governs contract actions. The Third Circuit Court noted that a non-fiduciary duty cause of action under ERISA accrues -that is the statute of limitations starts to run- when a claim for benefits has been denied, e.g., when the claim has been repudiated. Here, the statute of limitations began to run on February 24, 1999, the date of the initial denial letter, which repudiated the plaintiff's claim for pension benefits. This suit, filed on February 19, 2009, which is more than 6 years after the date of the February 24, 1999 letter, was filed too late.

May 5, 2011

ERISA-Fifth Circuit Holds That Claim For Disability Benefits Is Time Barred

In Horn v. Owens-Illinois Employee Benefits Committee, No. 10-50640 (5th Cir. 2011), the plaintiff filed suit, claiming that he was denied both permanent and total disability ("PTD") benefits and disability retirement income ("DRI") benefits, in violation of ERISA. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims, arguing that: (1) his claim for the PTD benefits was barred, since he had not timely appealed his benefit denial, and (2) he was not entitled to DRI benefits, since qualifying for PTD benefits was a prerequisite for receiving the DRI benefits. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed. The Fifth Circuit Court accepted the defendant's arguments in both (1) and (2), and affirmed the summary judgment.

The plaintiff had been employed at Owen-Illinois. As a result of an injury at work, the plaintiff applied for the PTD benefits on February 17, 2005. The claims administrator, Aetna Life Insurance Company ("Aetna"), denied the plaintiff's application for these benefits on March 1, 2005. He did not appeal this denial. On July 11, 2006, the plaintiff was notified that his employment at Owens-Illinois was terminated. The plaintiff was awarded Social Security Disability benefits on March 5, 2007. He then contacted Owens-Illinois seeking "every benefit to which he [was] entitled as a result of the determination by Social Security." Owens-Illinois denied his request as untimely in November, 2007. In 2008, the plaintiff sent Owens-Illinois a request for PTD and DRI benefits in light of his entitlement to Social Security Disability benefits, but-again- this request was rejected as untimely. The plaintiff then filed this suit.

As to the PTD benefits, the Court determined that the plaintiff's requests for those benefits in 2007 and 2008 are appeals of the earlier PTD benefit denial by Aetna on March 1, 2005. As such, the Court found that those requests are not timely, since the plaintiff never appealed the 2005 Aetna benefit denial (that is, he did not appeal this denial within applicable time limits, e.g., the 60 day limit under ERISA regulations). Further, since he never appealed the Aetna benefit denial, the Court ruled that the plaintiff failed to exhaust the applicable administrative procedures, so he cannot now bring a suit for the PTD benefits. As to the DRI benefits, the Court noted that the applicable summary plan description (the "SPD") indicates that, to be entitled to these benefits, an insurance company must approve the employee's claim for permanent and total disability "under the PTD provision . . . ." The SPD further requires the employee to receive PTD benefits before submitting an application for DRI benefits. As such, the Court concluded that the plaintiff had to receive PTD benefits, as a prerequisite for entitlement to DRI benefits.

May 4, 2011

ERISA-Seventh Circuit Rules That The Plaintiff's Failure To Timely File An Administrative Appeal Resulted In Her Failure To Exhaust The Plan's Administrative Procedures, So She Could Not File A Suit For Disability Benefits

In Edwards v. Briggs & Stratton Retirement Plan, No. 09-2326 (7th Cir. 2011), the Court faced the question of whether the defendant, the Briggs & Stratton Retirement Plan (the "Plan"), should have considered the plaintiff's administrative appeal from a denial of her claim for disability benefits by the Plan, even though the appeal was filed eleven days late. The broader issue is whether the plaintiff exhausted the Plan's administrative procedures as a predicate to filing suit under ERISA in federal court. Finding that the plaintiff failed to exhaust those procedures, the district court dismissed the plaintiff's case on summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

On August 9, 2007, the plaintiff had made a claim for disability retirement benefits under the Plan, based on an assortment of ailments. On September 26, 2007, the Plan denied the plaintiff's claim for the benefits, and on September 29, 2007, the plaintiff was notified of this denial. The denial letter told the plaintiff that she had 180 days from receipt of the letter to appeal the denial of the benefits to the Plan's Retirement Committee. This 180-day requirement is contained in the Plan document. The 180 days ran out on March 27, 2008, but the plan administrator extended it to March 31, 2008. The plaintiff did appeal, but the appeals letter was not received by the Plan until April 11, 2008, eleven days after the March 31 deadline. The Plan refused to consider the plaintiff's appeal on the grounds that the appeal was untimely. On June 9, 2008, the plaintiff filed suit against the Plan under ERISA. The question: did the Plan have to consider the plaintiff's administrative appeal?

In analyzing the case, the Court noted that it is undisputed that the plaintiff's appeal letter was filed late. The plaintiff argued that the untimeliness of her appeal should be excused because she was in "substantial compliance" with the Plan's administrative review procedures. However, no prior case has applied the "substantial compliance" doctrine to excuse a late filing of an appeal. The Plan has fixed a clear deadline of 180 days for filing administrative appeals from benefit denials. The Plan has the right to enforce that deadline. Also, while the plan administrator has discretion to consider an appeal which is filed late, it is not required to do so, and the plaintiff never offered any reason for the late filing. In this case, nothing indicated that the plan administrator's refusal to entertain the plaintiff's untimely administrative appeal was an abuse of its discretion. Finally, the plan administrator did not have a conflict of interest (see the Supreme Court's ruling in Glenn) that changes the result.

Continuing with the case, the courts have held that the untimely filing means that the plaintiff has failed to exhaust the Plan's administrative procedures. The result of this failure means that the plaintiff cannot file suit in court for the denied benefits. A court may, in its discretion, excuse a plaintiff's failure to exhaust the administrative procedures. However, in this case, nothing indicated that it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to not excuse the failure. As such, the Court affirmed the district court's summary judgment against the plaintiff, so she could not file suit for disability benefits.

May 3, 2011

ERISA-Fifth Circuit Holds That Accidental Death Benefit Is Not Payable Due To Exclusion In The Plan For Drunk Driving

In Redeaux v. Southern National Life Insurance Company, No. 10-30670 (5th Cir. 2011), the Court faced the question of whether an accidental death benefit was payable from a plan subject to ERISA (the "Plan").

In this case, Bryan Redeaux ("the Insured") died in 2002. The Insured was covered under a life insurance policy which was held by (or which constituted) the Plan, and which was issued by Southern National Life Insurance Company ("Southern"). His mother, Connie Redeaux ("Redeaux"), was listed as the beneficiary under the Plan. The Insured was killed in a single-vehicle crash in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. The death certificate shows that the Insured's blood alcohol concentration ("BAC") was 0.21 percent at the time of his death. After her son's death, Redeaux filed a claim with Southern for benefits. Southern paid Redeaux $10,000 in life insurance benefits but denied her claim for accidental death benefits based on, among other things, a policy exclusion "for a loss which in any way results from . . . injury or death occurring as a result of the commission of a crime or the attempt to commit a crime." Redeaux filed a law suit in state court seeking the accidental death benefits. Southern removed the case to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, as the claim was preempted by ERISA. The federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of Redeaux, and Southern appealed.

According to the Court, the only issue on appeal is whether Southern erred when it denied Redeaux's claim on the basis of the aforementioned exclusion. The Court reviewed Southern's denial using a deferential standard. The question became whether the Insured's death occurred as the result of committing a crime. Driving a vehicle while intoxicated is a crime under Louisiana law. The applicable statute stated that the crime of operating a vehicle while intoxicated occurs when:

(a) The operator is under the influence of alcoholic beverages; or

(b) The operator's blood alcohol concentration is 0.10 percent or more by weight based on grams of alcohol per one hundred cubic centimeters of blood.

Here, the Insured was operating a motor vehicle at the time of his death, and his BAC while driving. was .21 percent, more than twice the legal limit under Louisiana law. The Insured was not charged with a crime, but such a charge is not required to conclude that he was driving illegally. The Insured's blood sample was drawn and tested by the coroner's office. The police report did not note any weather, vehicle, or road conditions that may have contributed to the car crash. As such, the Court concluded that Southern did not err in finding that the accidental death benefit was not payable from the Plan, due to the Plan's exclusion for death occurring as the result of committing a crime. Accordingly, the Court reversed the lower court's decision and rendered judgment in Southern's favor.