University of Kansas Law Review
Congress attempted to encourage the growth of private employee benefit plans by drafting the preemption provision in ERISA in an effort to develop the federal common law of employee benefits and discourage varied jurisdictional interpretations. States and federal courts have addressed the issue of preemption waivability with differing results. Some interpret the preemption clause as a waivable defense under a choice of law argument, while others treated preemption as a subject matter jurisdiction issue which cannot be waived.
ERISA’s express language clearly precludes state law causes of action under qualified ERISA plans. Furthermore, the legislative intent of the statute reiterates that it was the drafters’ intention to preempt state law claims as documented throughout the legislative history of ERISA. Several jurisdictions compared the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Labor Management Relations Act’s implied preemption of state law claims to the interpretation of ERISA. However, ERISA expressly preempts all state law claims in clear language within the federal statute. Federal preemption of state law claims serves the intent and purpose of the Act, encourages settlement of claims as opposed to expensive litigation, fosters a uniformity of interpretation nationally, and encourages the growth of private employee benefit plans.
George Lee Flint, Jr., ERISA: Nonwaivability of Preemption, 39 Univ. Kan. L. Rev. 29 (1991).