EBG Attains Dismissal for Lucent of Retiree Claims for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

NEW YORK (April 14 , 2008) — In March 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in a published opinion, affirmed a victory that Epstein Becker & Green attorneys achieved for Lucent Technologies Inc. in an ERISA fiduciary misrepresentation case. Bishop v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2008 WL 822265 (6th Cir. Mar. 25, 2008).

Lucent was sued in 2005 by eight former employees who alleged that they had been misled into filing for retirement several months before Lucent offered an enhanced separation/early retirement package in June 2001, which would have conferred more benefits. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio dismissed the claims as time-barred, under a three-year statute of limitations, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

The Bishop opinion strongly endorsed the strict application of the statute of limitations for claims involving breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. A split among the circuits has developed regarding the determination of a plaintiff's accrual of "actual knowledge" of a claim. The Bishop opinion held that plaintiffs acquired "actual knowledge" of their potential claim from the widespread publicity about Lucent's program at the time it was announced in 2001. It also endorsed handling the issue on a motion to dismiss, prior to any discovery, even though the plaintiffs had not affirmatively set forth in their complaint the date on which they acquired the knowledge that caused the statute of limitation to run. The Bishop court placed the responsibility on the plaintiffs to plead facts sufficient to show that the otherwise apparent lack of timeliness of their action did not bar its prosecution.

Member of the Firm John Houston Pope led representation of Lucent in this matter.

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