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Stephen K. Bieber and Karen Bieber v. David J. Nace and Eastern Industries

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


December 13, 2011

STEPHEN K. BIEBER AND KAREN BIEBER, PLAINTIFFS
v.
DAVID J. NACE AND EASTERN INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANTS

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

ORDER

AND NOW, this 13th day of December, 2011, upon consideration of the motion in limine (Doc. 26) filed by plaintiffs Steven K. Bieber and Karen Bieber ("the Biebers"), wherein the Biebers request that the court strike the fifth affirmative defense of defendant David J. Nace ("Nace") (Doc. 8, at 18), and the fourth affirmative defense of defendant Eastern Industries, Inc. (Doc. 11, at 18), both of which assert that the Biebers' recovery of medical expenses may be reduced or barred by provisions of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law ("PMVFRL"), see 75 PA. CONS. STAT. §§ 1720, 1722,*fn1 and wherein the Biebers assert that they are members of a self-funded employee benefits plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., that preempts operation of the PMVFRL, and upon further consideration of the brief in opposition (Doc. 28) filed by Eastern Industries, wherein Eastern Industries claims that the Biebers have provided no support for their contention that Biebers' employee benefits plan is an uninsured, self-funded plan with a right to subrogation governed by ERISA (Doc. 28, at 5), and it appearing from the affidavits and exhibits, submitted by the Biebers that the Biebers are indeed members of an uninsured, self-funded employee benefits plan subject to ERISA, (see Doc. 27, Ex. B; Doc. 29, Exs. A-C); see also Walker v. Rose, 22 F. Supp. 2d 343, 348 (D.N.J. 1998) (accepting declaration of plan administrator that plan at issue was self-funded, ERISA governed plan), and that the Biebers' employee benefits plan contains subrogation or reimbursement provisions, and liens have been asserted against the Biebers by the third-party administrators of the plan, (see Doc. 29, at 5-7 & Exs. C-F), and the court noting that ERISA broadly preempts state regulation of employee benefits plans, see 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a) (preemption clause), but does not preempt state laws governing insurance, see 29 U.S.C. § 1144(b)(2)(A) (savings clause), however, ERISA makes clear that an employee benefits plan governed by ERISA shall not be deemed an insurance company or insurer for purposes of state laws regulating insurance companies or insurance contracts, see 29 U.S.C. § 1144(b)(2)(B) (deemer clause), and the court finding that, pursuant to Supreme Court precedent, ERISA preempts operation of the PMVFRL against a self-funded and uninsured employee benefits plan governed by ERISA, see FMC Corp. v. Holliday, 498 U.S. 52, 64 (1990) ("Our interpretation of the deemer clause makes clear that if a plan is insured, a State may regulate it indirectly through regulation of its insurer and its insurer's insurance contracts; if the plan is uninsured, the State may not regulate it.");*fn2 see also Bill Gray Enterprises, Inc. Employee Health and Welfare Plan v. Gourley, 248 F.3d 206, 212-13 (3d Cir. 2001), and the court therefore concluding that the PMVFRL cannot operate to reduce or bar the Biebers' recovery of medical expenses in the above-captioned matter, it is hereby ORDERED that:

1. The motion in limine (Doc. 26) is GRANTED.

2. The fifth affirmative defense in the answer of defendant David J. Nace (Doc. 8, at 18) is STRICKEN.

3. The fourth affirmative defense in the answer of defendant Eastern Industries, Inc. (Doc. 11, at 18) is STRICKEN.

4. ERISA preempts the PMVFRL from operating to bar or reduce the recovery of medical expenses by the Biebers in the instant action. See FMC Corp. v. Holliday, 498 U.S. 52 (1990).

CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER United States District Judge


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