On July 29, 2022, the Honorable Janet C. Hall, a district judge in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, denied Defendants’ multipronged motion for summary judgment in its entirety. This denial comes shortly after the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in May.
In moving for summary judgment, Defendants sought to establish that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the case presents no genuine disputes as to any material fact. Defendants’ motion sought judgment on the three claims asserted in Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint: (1) breach of fiduciary duty, (2) failure to monitor fiduciaries and co-fiduciary breaches, and (3) liability for knowing breach of trust.
Opposing the motion, Plaintiffs argued that the issues Defendants identified are governed by material facts subject to genuine dispute. They emphasized that members of the Committee in charge of the Eversource 401(k) Plan (the “Plan”) were not familiar with basic monitoring concepts; that important investment decisions were made by staff intermediaries between the investment advisor and Committee, who were not legal fiduciaries of the Plan; and that no competitive bidding process ever occurred to evaluate the cost of recordkeeping services.
The Court agreed with Plaintiffs that genuine issues of material fact persist in the Action. Regarding the breach of duty claim, the Court carefully noted several contested issues of fact making it unclear whether the fiduciaries acted solely in the interest of Plan participants. Furthermore, the Court held that because the claims for failure to monitor and knowing breach of trust are entwined with the breach of fiduciary duty claim, it would be improper to grant summary judgment of those claims.
Defendants’ motion also sought to preclude one of Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, while Plaintiffs’ opposition sought to preclude two of Defendant’s expert witnesses. To successfully preclude expert testimony, the moving party must argue that the opposing witnesses’ testimony is speculative or conjunctural. The Second Circuit considers the (1) qualifications that render the testimony as expert; (2) the reliability of the opinion in their specific field; and (3) the relevance of the opinions to the trier of fact in the action at hand.
The motion for summary judgment and the three motions to preclude expert testimony were all denied in full on July 29, 2022. The parties are now preparing for trial.
Updates will be posted to this blog as the matter progresses. The class certified in this Action consists of all participants and beneficiaries of the Eversource 401(k) Plan from June 30, 2014, to present. If you have been identified as a potential member of this class, you do not need to take any further action at this time to share in any eventual recovery on behalf of the Class as a result of this litigation. The caption for the lawsuit is Kimberly Garthwait et al v. Eversource Energy Company et al., Case No. 3:20-cv-00902(JCH), filed in the District of Connecticut.
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