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Judge dismisses portion of Augsburg Fortress lawsuit

Nine months after an April 2010 lawsuit was filed by four plaintiffs contesting Augsburg Fortress, Publishers' termination of its defined benefit pension plan, a federal judge dismissed seven of 12 claims against the publishing house and seven of nine claims against the ELCA.

Michael J. Davis, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, ruled Jan. 27 that the terminated plan is a church plan and therefore exempt from the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The court dismissed all ERISA claims and allegations of consumer fraud against Augsburg Fortress and the ELCA.

However, without making judgment on the merits, the judge let stand state law allegations involving breach of contract and other matters against the ELCA and Augsburg Fortress. Among those claims, the plaintiffs contend the ELCA is an "alter ego" of Augsburg Fortress. The judge said the plaintiffs "asserted sufficient factual allegations" to pursue the claim.


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