ERISA-Seventh Circuit Holds That ERISA Does Not Preempt Illinois Slayer Statute, Which Bars Plan Participant’s Killer/Spouse From Receiving A Survivor’s Pension

In Miscevic v. Estate of M.M., No. 17-2022 (7th Cir. 2018), in January 2014, Anka Miscevic (“Anka”) killed her husband, Zeljko Miscevic (“Zeljko”).  At a state criminal proceeding, the court determined that Anka intended to kill Zeljko without legal justification.  However, the court also determined that Anka was insane at the time of the killing and found her not guilty of first degree murder by reason of insanity.

Following the criminal trial, the Laborers’ Pension Fund (the “Fund”) brought an interpleader action to determine the proper beneficiary of Zeljko’s pension benefits.  Anka claimed she was entitled to a Surviving Spouse Pension.  The Estate of M.M. (Anka and Zeljko’s child) argued that Anka was barred from recovering from the Fund by the Illinois slayer statute.  After both parties filed motions seeking a judgment on the pleadings, the district court ruled in favor of the Estate of M.M.  It determined that ERISA did not preempt the Illinois slayer statute, and that the statute barred even those found not guilty by reason of insanity from recovering from the deceased.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling.

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