Oregon, like many states, has on its books a “slayer statute,” which generally prohibits a slayer or abuser of a decedent from obtaining benefits by virtue of the death of the decedent. The parents of Julianne Herinckx sought to enforce the Oregon slayer statute and preclude their daughter’s murderers from receiving life insurance benefits payable from a policy held through her former employer. The Oregon state trial and appellate courts determined that Oregon’s slayer statute was preempted by ERISA because it impermissibly governed the payment of benefits and interfered with ERISA’s intended national uniformity in the administration of benefits. However, the appellate court also concluded that the decedent’s parents should have been permitted to amend their complaint to assert a claim for benefits as a matter of federal common law, which includes a slayer law. The case was thus remanded to the district court for further proceedings. The case is Herinckx v. Sanelle, 2016 WL 6246921 (Or. Ct. App. Oct. 26, 2016).
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