Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, 536 U.S. 355, 23 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 355 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

A

Although we have yet to encounter a forced choice between the congressional policies of exclusively federal remedies and the "reservation of the business of insurance to the States," Metropolitan Life, 471 U. S., at 744, n. 21, we have anticipated such a conflict, with the state insurance regulation losing out if it allows plan participants "to obtain remedies . . . that Congress rejected in ERISA," Pilot Life, supra, at 54.

In Pilot Life, an ERISA plan participant who had been denied benefits sued in a state court on state tort and contract claims. He sought not merely damages for breach of contract, but also damages for emotional distress and punitive damages, both of which we had held unavailable under relevant ERISA provisions. Russell, supra, at 148. We not only rejected the notion that these common law contract claims "regulat[ed] insurance," Pilot Life, 481 U. S., at 50-51, but went on to say that, regardless, Congress intended a "federal common law of rights and obligations" to develop under ERISA, id., at 56, without embellishment by independent state remedies. As in AT&T, we said the saving clause had to stop short of subverting congressional intent, clearly expressed "through the structure and legislative history[,] that the federal remedy . . . displace state causes of action." 481 U. S., at 57.8

Rush says that the day has come to turn dictum into holding by declaring that the state insurance regulation, 4-10, is preempted for creating just the kind of "alternative remedy" we disparaged in Pilot Life. As Rush sees it, the inde-8 Rush and its amici interpret Pilot Life to have gone a step further to hold that any law that presents such a conflict with federal goals is simply not a law that "regulates insurance," however else the "insurance" test comes out. We believe the point is largely academic. As will be discussed further, even under Rush's approach, a court must still determine whether the state law at issue does, in fact, create such a conflict. Thus, we believe that it is more logical to proceed as we have done here.

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