KENNEDY v. PLAN ADMINISTRATOR FOR DUPONT SAVINGS AND INVESTMENT PLAN

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
07-636
Petitioner 
Kari E. Kennedy, et al.
Respondent 
Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings and Investment Plan, et al.
Advocates
(argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

William Kennedy designated his wife, Liv, as the sole beneficiary of his Dupont pension and retirement savings plans. The couple subsequently divorced, and as part of the settlement Liv agreed to give up any interests she may have in the plans. However, William never submitted this portion of the settlement prior to his death in 2001, so the pension and retirement savings benefits were paid out to Liv. William's daughter, Keri, the executor of his estate, brought suit against Dupont to recover the benefits. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted summary judgment for the estate, awarding it the value of the benefits.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, explaining that because William had never submitted the portion of the settlement agreement denying the benefits to Liv, they were correctly paid out to her by Dupont.

Question 

Does the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's anti-alienation provision prevent the enforcement of a waiver recognized by federal common law which holds that a spouse’s right to the other spouse's pension benefits is rendered void upon divorce?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Plan Administrator for Dupont Savings and Investment Plan Decision, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Employee Retirement Income Security Act

No. In a unanimous decision with Justice David Souter writing for the Court, the Supreme Court held that Liv's waiver of her former husband's pension benefits upon their divorce was not rendered void by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's anti-alienation provision. However, the Court held that Liv was appropriately granted the benefits of her ex-husband's estate because the plan administrator properly disregarded her waiver. It reasoned that the pension plan was clearly laid out and recognized Liv as the beneficiary. The plan had a mechanism in which Liv could have disclaimed her interest, but she did not.

Cite this Page
KENNEDY v. PLAN ADMINISTRATOR FOR DUPONT SAVINGS AND INVESTMENT PLAN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_07_636>.
KENNEDY v. PLAN ADMINISTRATOR FOR DUPONT SAVINGS AND INVESTMENT PLAN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_07_636 (last visited September 1, 2014).
"KENNEDY v. PLAN ADMINISTRATOR FOR DUPONT SAVINGS AND INVESTMENT PLAN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_07_636.