Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Torres v. Bella Vista Hospital, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 25, 2019

OLGA TORRES; PEDRO BONILLA, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
BELLA VISTA HOSPITAL, INC.; BANCO POPULAR DE PUERTO RICO; THE WATSON WYATT COMPANY; RUBÉN PERÉZ; JOHANA DOE 1; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP PERÉZ-DOE 1, Defendants, Appellees, THE ANTILLIAN UNION CONFERENCE OF THE SEVEN DAY ADVENTIST; THE RETIREMENT COMMITTEE OF THE GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS INTERAMERICAN DIVISION; THE GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST; BELLA VISTA PENSION PLAN AND TRUST; THE ADVENTIST OF THE SEVENTH DAY INTERAMERICAN DIVISION RETIREMENT PLAN; BELLA VISTA HOSPITAL, INC. 401K PLAN AND TRUST; PANNELL KERR & FOSTER, L.L.P.; MIGUEL RAMOS; JOHANA DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP RAMOS-DOE, Defendants.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Jay A. García-Gregory, U.S. District Judge]

          Luis A. Vivaldi Oliver on brief for appellants.

          Carlos G. Martínez-Vivas on brief for appellees Bella Vista Hospital, Inc.; Ruben Perez; Johana Doe 1; and Conjugal Partnership Perez-Doe 1.

          Cristina S. Belaval-Burger on brief for appellee Banco Popular de Puerto Rico.

          Juan A. Marqués-Díaz, Sonia M. López del Valle-Carrera, and McConnell Valdés LLC, on brief for appellee Watson Wyatt Company.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Boudin and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BOUDIN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Olga Torres and Pedro Bonilla are former employees of Bella Vista Hospital ("Bella Vista"), a Mayaguez, Puerto Rico-based hospital operated by the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Church. In 1982, the hospital created a pension program, advising its employees that the plan was subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461. ERISA is a federal statute imposing obligations on private employers offering pension plans. See Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, 137 S.Ct. 1652, 1656 (2017).

         Certain types of plans are exempt from ERISA's requirements, including plans which meet the statutory definition of "church plan," 29 U.S.C. § 1003(b)(2). In 2000, the Internal Revenue Service, which is empowered to issue rulings to parties as to the status of their plans, advised Bella Vista that its pension plan met the definition of "church plan" and so was exempt from ERISA. In 2003, Bella Vista terminated the plan. Torres and Bonilla had become disabled some years earlier, and certain benefits they were receiving from the hospital ended. In November 2006, Torres and Bonilla sued in federal district court in Puerto Rico to recover lost benefits.[1]

         Although the plaintiffs claimed federal subject matter jurisdiction under ERISA, the district court found that the church plan exception applied so ERISA did not govern the hospital's pension regime. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, dismissing the case on May 21, 2009, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction--there being no federal claim in the case outside of the purported ERISA count. Torres and Bonilla did not appeal that decision and took no further action in court for five years.

         On November 24, 2014, Torres and Bonilla filed a motion in the district court to set aside the 2009 judgment, invoking the court's authority to vacate a judgment procured by "fraud on the court." Although such an action is recognized in the rules, Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(d)(3), the power of federal courts, both trial and appellate, to set aside or alter prior judgments obtained by fraud antedates the rules' adoption in 1938 and is a long-settled equitable power of the federal courts not constrained by any statute of limitations, Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238, 244-45 (1944).

         This drastic remedy is hedged with restrictions. Here, plaintiffs claimed that in the original federal action they brought in 2006, various defendants made deliberate material misstatements in their answers and various sworn statements. After referring the reopening request to a magistrate judge, the district court in September 2015, in agreement with the magistrate judge, rejected the request as not coming even close to the level of "fraud on the court."

         The plaintiffs moved for reconsideration citing evidence unearthed during the state-court proceeding, which had resumed following the 2009 dismissal order in the federal case. The district court denied the motion, and this appeal followed. The appeal is hopeless on the merits; but the defendants raise threshold objections that they argue divest this court of authority over the appeal, namely (1) that the appeal is untimely, and (2) that the notice of appeal is insufficient.

         "'Jurisdiction' is a term used multiple ways," McKenna v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 693 F.3d 207, 213 (1st Cir. 2012); not every rule governing the timing of appeals can be said to be "jurisdictional," only those accorded that status by statute, Hamerv.Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, 138 S.Ct. 13, 17 (2017), or where Congress has otherwise made a "clear indication" of its desire to treat a particular rule as having ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.