A 3-judge panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a group disability plan member who is not a lawyer cannot represent the plan in a breach-of-fiduciary-duty suit.

Ronnie Simon, the plaintiff in the case, Ronnie J. Simon vs. Hartford Life Inc., Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, said he ought to be able to represent the plan in court proceedings because he was the plan’s only member, but the judges agreed with the lower court that the plan has an existence apart from Simon.

Simon can assert his claims for breach of fiduciary duty, but he cannot try to bring claims on behalf of the plan without getting a lawyer, U.S. District Judge Stephen McNamee, who sat on the panel “by designation,” writes in an opinion for the court.

A representative for Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, declined to comment on the case.