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Cantrell PLLC Defeats BB&T to Recover Pension Benefits


Cantrell PLLC filed a lawsuit in 2018 on behalf of a woman who previously worked for First Virginia Bank. In connection with her employment, she was a participant in an employer-sponsored pension plan. She worked for First Virginia Bank for over a decade, including in management positions. After her retirement, First Virginia Bank was purchased by BB&T, which assumed responsibility for overseeing the pension plan.

In 2015, the woman sought to start receiving her monthly annuity from the pension plan. BB&T, the plan administrator of the pension plan, denied the woman’s request for her pension benefits on the basis that its actuary had no records of her being entitled to benefits. After the woman had several demand letters sent from other law firms, she was referred to Cantrell PLLC.

Cantrell PLLC sued the pension plan and plan administrator under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which is the federal law governing pension plan benefit disputes. Cantrell PLLC pointed out in the lawsuit that there could be no genuine dispute that that woman was entitled to her pension benefits: there was no question the woman was an employee for over 10 years and that she was old enough to elect receiving benefits under the plan. Under the terms of the plan, therefore, she was plainly entitled to benefits.

Cantrell PLLC argued that that plan administrator not finding the woman’s pension plan benefits records was not a legally sufficient reason to deny her benefits. Cantrell PLLC also argued that the plan administrator’s review of the woman’s claim pre-lawsuit was not a fair review.

On March 2, 2020, a federal judge in Miami granted Cantrell PLLC’s motion for summary judgement, which granted complete relief to the woman. Specifically, as required by law, the judge required the plan administrator to reconsider its decision to deny the woman her benefits benefits and, this time, to provide a fair review of her claim. While the judge was not allowed to order the defendants to immediately pay the pension benefits (because the law requires the claim to first go back to the plan administrator), the judge did indicate he believed they made a wrong decision.

Cantrell PLLC is also seeking all its attorneys’ fees, which can be recovered for winning the lawsuit under ERISA. The estimated total value of the pension benefits, attorneys’ fees, and costs are over $400,000. The lead attorney on the case was attorney Will Cantrell. The Motion for Summary Judgement was argued and won by attorney James Fakhoury. The law firm representing the defendants was the well-known national firm Constangy Brooks, Smith & Prophete. The lawsuit represents a total win for the woman and was a total loss for the defendants.

Cantrell PLLC is a litigation boutique that specializes in competition disputes and employment law. including ERISA disputes. You can reach us at 813-867-0115. Or visit us at www.cantrellzwetsch.com.