Frances Fisher’s Application To File Suit Against SAG-AFTRA Over Health Plan Changes Rejected By Judge, But Case Could Still Go Forward

A federal judge has denied actress Frances Fisher’s verified application to file a breach of fiduciary duty complaint against SAG-AFTRA over the raising of eligibility requirements for coverage under the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan. U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder dismissed Fisher’s application Friday without prejudice, however, meaning that she can refile a modified version of the application.

“We expect the claim to go forward with an additional claim being added,” said her attorney, Neville Johnson. “We’re working it out with the other side. We are coming to an agreement.”

The union said in a statement that “In the breach of fiduciary suit case which Frances Fisher was seeking to file against SAG-AFTRA officers and executive staff, the Court has denied her application to file the fiduciary lawsuit at this time. Should a breach of the duty of fair representation suit against the union or a renewed application for the court’s permission to file the fiduciary breach claims be filed, SAG-AFTRA will oppose those efforts to proceed, as all claims raised are without merit.”

SAG-AFTRA declined further comment.

In her June 25 application for leave to file a proposed complaint, Fisher identified the defendants as “the members of union leadership who are SAG-AFTRA Health Plan trustees; the members of union leadership who participated in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations and approvals with knowledge of the ongoing activity by the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan trustees to change the benefit structure, and the members of union leadership who approved the benefit cuts changes or who have used their union positions and the union to support the benefit cuts.”

Fisher, who is first vice president of the union’s Los Angeles Local and a member of the its national board of directors, named SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, former national executive director David White, chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez and several other SAG-AFTRA officials as defendants.

Her case is separate but similar to a lawsuit filed last December against the trustees of the Health Plan, which claims that that the changes in its eligibility rules “illegally discriminate based on age” – a charge flatly denied by the plan’s trustees, who say the changes were necessary to keep the plan afloat. Like Fisher, two of the plaintiffs in that case – former SAG president Ed Asner and L.A. Local second vice president David Jolliffe – are aligned with MembershipFirst, the union’s opposition party.

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