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District Court Enforces Forum Selection Clause in Employer’s Benefits Plan

A federal district court in North Carolina enforced a forum selection clause in a short-term disability plan and on that basis transferred the case to Wisconsin federal court.  In so ruling, the court explained that ERISA’s venue provision is permissive, not mandatory, and thus rejected the plaintiff’s argument that ERISA’s venue provision guaranteed her a right to litigate in her choice of one of the three designated venues in ERISA § 502(e), i.e., where the action “may be brought in the district where the plan is administered, where the breach took place, or where a defendant resides or may be found.”  The court also found it irrelevant whether the plaintiff was made aware of the forum selection clause when her claim for benefits was denied by the plan fiduciary.  The case is Manuel-Clark v. ManpowerGroup Short-Term Disability Plan, No. 19-cv-147, 2019 WL 5558406 (E.D.N.C. Oct. 28, 2019).

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 351


About this Author


James W. Barnett is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group, where he focuses on ERISA litigation.

James works on a wide variety of ERISA litigation matters, including breach of fiduciary duty claims, ERISA benefits claims and withdrawal liability disputes. He represents plan fiduciaries, trustees, sponsors and service providers on a myriad of ERISA and Employee Stock Ownership Plan issues. James also represents employers in litigation of employment-related matters, including claims of...