The text of ERISA does not mention medical malpractice lawsuits and there was
no discussion of them in the congressional hearings preceding the adoption of
ERISA. Nonetheless, the broad language of ERISA that exempts ERISA plans
from state regulation has been construed by the courts to prevent state tort
lawsuits against ERISA plans. [Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58
(1987).] In most cases where a denial of benefits is challenged because the
plan claimed they were excluded under the contract, courts find the claims to
be preempted. [Katz v. Colonial Life Ins. Co. of Am., 951 F. Supp. 36 (S.D.N.Y.
1997).] Some courts have gone farther and held that ERISA preempts medical
malpractice claims against ERISA plans, although it is generally accepted now
that ERISA does not preempt ordinary vicarious liability claims for physicians
who are employees of the plan, rather than independent contractors. ERISA
does not affect the employee or contract physician’s liability for medical
malpractice, so the physician is left as the target defendant when the plaintiff’s
case against the plan is dismissed.