Firm News

May 18, 2009

Our office recently filed a case on behalf of a group of Navajo Allottees in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, Begay et al. v. Public Service Company of NM et al., No. 09-CV-137-BB-RLP. The case alleges that the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs violated its fiduciary duties by statute and regulation by not obtaining independent appraisals for rights-of-ways (ROWs) negotiated by the U.S. on behalf of Navajo Allottees, and for failing to negotiate fair market value for the ROWs. The U.S. is a defendant for declaratory and injunctive relief, and we have also named several corporate defendants as participants in the breach of fiduciary duty. We seek payment to the Navajo Allottees of the fair market value of the ROWs on their property from Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), El Paso Corporation, Enterprise Products Partners L.P., Kinder Morgan, New Mexico Gas Company, Transwestern Pipeline Co., LLC, Tuscon Electric Power Company and Western Refining, Inc. The case seeks class certification for thousands of Allottees, who we allege received a fraction in payment for ROWs in comparison to their immediate neighbors.

Dec. 10, 2008

This week, the District Court issued an interesting decision in an ERISA case that our firm is co-counseling, Comrie v. IPSCO, No. 08-3060 (N.D.Ill. Dec. 10, 2008). The court considered the question of whether foreign labor and benefits contracts are preempted by ERISA, holding that they are not.

The case involves an executive originally from Regina, Saskatchewan. According to the complaint, he entered into an oral contract to come to the U.S. to work in a division headquartered in Illinois, upon the company's commitment that he would be allowed to keep his Canadian benefits. He came to the U.S. (later becoming a citizen), then discovered upon his removal from office some years later that the company would pay him only under the U.S. ERISA plan, quite possibly shorting him millions of dollars.

When the former executive sued for the benefit, he brought the action under both ERISA and contract law, and (not unexpectedly) IPSCO moved to dismiss the common-law claims on preemption grounds. But in this decision (attached). Finding that the executive contract should be governed by Canadian law (under a "most significant contacts," conflict of laws analysis), the court held that the contract was not preempted.