Ripeness Generally

In order for an individual to bring a lawsuit, the individual's claim must be based on an actual, present controversy and cannot be speculative or hypothetical.  In the context of employee benefits, courts generally require the individual to be entitled to apply for the benefit or that the individual have a right to the benefit, such as a vested or contractual right that cannot be taken away.

Pension Claims Cannot Be Brought in Court if a Nonretired Member Is Not Entitled to Apply for Benefits

Claims related to the calculation of retirement benefits are not ripe for judicial review until the individual is entitled to apply for such benefits. In Ames v. RTD & Amlgamated T. Union Div. 1001 Pension Plan, Civ. A. No. 05-CV-01567-WYD-BNB (D. Colo. Mar. 20, 2007), Judge Wiley Daniel held that claims of non-retired members of a pension plan related to the calculation of their benefits are not ripe and should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). The court applied the following standard, which is to determine whether: (1) the case concerns “uncertain or contingent events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all;” and (2) “the challenged action or allegations create a direct or immediate dilemma for the parties.” The court dismissed the claim of the non-retired members finding that they were speculatively based on unknown future events, making it impossible to calculate their final average earnings, retirement date, and date of retirement. The court also held that since the non-retired members had not retired or applied for benefits, there was no controversy. In addition, there was no direct and immediate dilemma because these individuals had not received any benefits.