Bui v. AT&T, 310 F.3d 1143 (9th Cir. 2002)

Nga Bui brought this action on behalf of her deceased husband’s estate against various parties, including his former employers, AT&T and Lucent Technologies. Bui’s husband, Hung M. Duong, died at Erfan Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after undergoing two unsuccessful operations and suffering two myocardial infarctions. In the week before his death, Duong had to decide whether to remain in Saudi Arabia for surgery or leave the country to seek treatment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a negligence claim against AT&T (which had been Duong’s employer before AT&T spun off Lucent) on the ground that ERISA preempted claims arising from the selection of SOS, a company that provided medical advice and evacuation services to AT&T and Lucent employees. Similarly, the Court affirmed dismissal on preemption grounds of Bui’s claims against Lucent for breach of contract and negligent retention of SOS as a service provider. However, the Court held that ERISA did not preempt Bui’s claims against Lucent for failing to inform Duong that his passport could be returned to him quickly in the event of an emergency, for negligent medical advice and for delay in responding to Duong.