Bradley partner Scott Burnett Smith was quoted in Law360 on the request to the 11th Circuit to revive a lawsuit regarding CSX Transportation’s former vice president’s claims that he was terminated after requesting information regarding his severance challenging his former employer's decision to deny him benefits.
Smith said that how ERISA fiduciary duties apply to the top hat plan in the case will be a "novel question" for the appellate court to explore during arguments Tuesday. CSX claims that Bryan Rhode resigned and was not terminated, which would make him ineligible for severance.
"It's probably the most important legal issue in the case," Smith explained. But before the panel can get to that issue, "it has to resolve whether or not that issue was preserved for purposes of the appeal," Smith said.
CSX told the panel that Rhode had waived his argument about whether the fiduciary exception applied by failing to specifically object to Judge Richardson's report on that ground. CSX cited 11th Circuit Rule 3-1, which specifies that parties failing to object to a magistrate judge's report effectively waive the argument on appeal.
Smith said another key issue he expects the panel to focus on during arguments is the fact that the two sides were "on completely different planets in terms of the circumstances of his departure." CSX and Rhode’s stories lead to two opposing conclusions, and the panel will have to hear both sides to come to a decision.
"The judges are likely to ask both sides: What are the true facts here?" Smith said.
The full article, “11th Circ. CSX Fight Could Curb Ex-Exec's Severance Claims,” was published by Law360 on August 21, 2023. (login required)