Gabriel v. Alaska Electrical Pension Fund

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 06-06-2014
  • Case #: 12-35458
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Kozinski and Berzon.
  • Full Text Opinion

An error of calculation in a benefit pension plan is not sufficient to invoke equitable estoppel.

Gregory R. Gabriel participated in an employee pension benefit plan called the Alaska Electrical Pension Plan (“the Plan”) from 1968 through 1975. Upon Mr. Gabriel’s retirement, the Plan paid him pension benefits monthly. After three years of receiving monthly pension payments, the Plan discovered that Mr. Gabriel had not actually earned the pension benefits that he had been receiving, and the payments stopped. Mr. Gabriel brought suit in district court claiming that the fund had abused its discretion in denying his benefits, and that he was entitled to equitable estoppel. The district court found for the Plan and stressed that Mr. Gabriel had been properly informed of the requirements for participation in the pension program, and therefore he should have known that he did not qualify. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court and found that based on the facts, Mr. Gabriel is not entitled to reformation, estoppel, or surcharge. The panel explained that this case was essentially an error of calculating benefits and that precedent indicates that such mistakes are not a sufficient basis for invoking equitable estoppel. AFFIRMED

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