Life Insurance Policies, Interpretation, and ERISA

A United States Federal District Court in Texas recently discussed the above in a case. The life insurance policy was for $200,000. The policy was provided through a voluntary plan the beneficiary of the policy had with his employer and was an ERISA plan. ERISA stands for Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The case was Carmichael Khan v American International Group, Inc.

Like many people in Dallas, Fort Worth, and surrounding cities and counties Khan was a voluntary participant in a plan provided by his employer. The facts and issues in the case centered around Khans’ employment terminating around April 7, 2006 and his wife having died in a car wreck on April 20, 2006. There were issues about termination paperwork Khan had filled out prior to his termination and his intent to covert coverage he had through his employer to continuing coverage once he left American. Also, there were issues about deductions from Khans last pay check for coverage. The fact pattern is long and the legal battle is also long and complicated. In the end the Federal Court ordered the case back to the Plan Administrator for further determinations to be made by the Plan Administrator. This case will likely continue over the next several months and possibly years unless a settlement is reached among the parties involved.

One of many things to be drawn from this case is that when a life insurance policy is in an ERISA plan, there is an administrative process that has to be exhausted before an appeal to a Federal Court can be fully litigated. All ERISA disputes are fought out in Federal Courts rather than State Court because ERISA issues are a matter of Federal Jurisdiction. Insurance companies prefer Federal Court for fighting their battles whereas attorneys who represent claimants prefer State Courts.

Anytime a person is making a claim for benefits under a plan that is an ERISA plan that has been denied, they simply must get in touch with an attorney experienced in Insurance Law. At the Law Office of Mark Humphreys we can help.