The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER
Plaintiff has commenced this action in an effort to obtain payment for nursing services provided to individuals covered by employee benefit trusts. Plaintiff is a nursing care facility. Defendants are the Health and Retirement Funds covering the individual patients. The eight individuals who received care are not named as parties.
Plaintiff seeks to state a cause of action under ERISA. 29 USC § 1001 et seq. Defendants have now moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. Because we conclude that Plaintiff is not within the class of persons empowered by the statute to bring suit under ERISA, we will grant Defendants' motion and dismiss the action.
The statute empowers various defined entities to bring suit under ERISA for various forms of relief. Plaintiff purports to sue under 29 USC § 1132(a)(1)(B) which provides in pertinent part:
(a) A civil action may be brought --
(1) by a participant or beneficiary --
(B) to recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan, to enforce his rights under the terms of the plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under the terms of the plan;
Federal jurisdiction under this section is limited to suits by the entities specified in the statute. Franchise Tax Board of California v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 103 S. Ct. 2841, 2852, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420 (1983). Plaintiff is clearly not a "participant" as defined in 29 USC § 1002(7). Plaintiff contends that it falls within the definition of beneficiary contained in 29 USC § 1002(8):
(8) The term "beneficiary" means a person designated by a participant, or by the terms of an employee benefit plan, who is or may become entitled to a benefit thereunder.
Plaintiff contends that it was tacitly designated a beneficiary by the employee-patients by their selection of the facility for treatment.
"Beneficiary" in the context of the various provisions of ERISA carries the connotation of a person, other than the employee-participant, who is covered by the plan's provisions -- e.g., a spouse or dependent. Furthermore, the act of "designation" would appear to be such formal election as that contained in 29 USC § 1055, rather than the patient's choice of facility. Finally, the declared purpose of the Act is to protect and educate those persons covered by such plans, and there is no indication that Congress intended by this statute to insure that health care facilities be paid. While Plaintiff may indeed be entitled to a "benefit" through operation of the plan -- i.e., payment for services -- we conclude that the term as employed in the statute does not permit of a construction broad enough to include a provider of health services to participants. See, Hibernia Bank v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 411 F. Supp. 478 (N.D. Cal. 1976); National Bank of North America v. Local 553 Pension Fund, 463 F. Supp. 636 (E.D. N.Y. 1978).
Plaintiff argues that in any event it is a "party in interest" as defined in 29 USC § 1002(14)(B) as a "person providing services to the plan." While this may well be true, it has no bearing on the definition of beneficiary discussed above, nor will it alone support jurisdiction under 29 USC § 1132(a)(1)(B). Moreover, the existence of this separate category which consists of care providers indicates a distinction between it and the category "beneficiary."
We conclude therefore that Plaintiff is neither a "participant" nor "beneficiary" as defined in the statute, and is not entitled to bring suit under ERISA ...