In Ward Mfg. v. Yeager, 2009 WL 1107891 (E.D. Pa. April 22, 2009), Yeager’s injury lawyers recovered money for personal injuries. Ward had paid medical expenses associated with the injuries, and claimed a right to be reimbursed from the personal injury proceeds. Ward filed an action under 29 USC Section 1132(a)(3) (2009) against Yeager and his injury lawyers seeking an equitable lien or constructive trust on $37,963.01 held in trust by the injury lawyers.
Yeager and his lawyers argued that Ward’s action was not an authorized equitable action, but instead amounted to an action seeking legal relief. Ward’s action is governed by 29 USC Section 1132(a)(3) which only allows equitable actions, and does not allow actions for legal relief.
The court held that because
Ward seeks an equitable lien or constructive trust on an identifiable piece of property–namely, the $37,963.01 held in trust–rather than a claim against Yeager’s general assets, § 502(a)(3) does authorize this action. See Knudson, 534 U.S. at 213 (noting that "a plaintiff could seek restitution in equity, ordinarily in the form of a constructive trust or an equitable lien, where money or property identified as belonging in good conscience to the plaintiff could clearly be traced to particular funds or property in the defendant’s possession .")