Articles Posted in ERISA

Life insurance is an option, as far as this author knows, under all ERISA plans.  Life insurance is treated virtually the same as other benefits under ERISA plans.
This lawsuit is brought under the Employees Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. Section 1001 et seq. (ERISA) after her husband Karthik died in the crash of a relatively small private airplane on which he was a passenger.  Recovery was denied under ERISA because of an express exclusion of death or injury incurred as a passenger in such an aircraft.  Summary judgment was eventually granted in the district court in favor of the defendants.

How does an insurance lawyer know whether or not his insurance plan is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974?

Here is a November 2022 opinion that discusses how to determine whether or not an insurance plan is governed by ERISA.  The opinion is from the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, and is styled, Robert Abraham v. Blue Cross And Blue Shield of Texas.

This case is in this Federal Court after being removed there by BCBS.  The lawsuit was originally filed in a Justice of the Peace Court.

Lawyers who handle claims related to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 know how hard this cases can be.  Unlike other types of claims, such as personal injury, auto wrecks, on the job injury, and medical malpractice, under ERISA, a prevailing claimant is only entitled to actual benefits and in some situations, attorney fees.  Those other types of claims will generally have attorneys bragging and boasting about the excellent work they did on behalf of their client.  This is illustrated by large recoveries that go beyond the actual medical bills or lost wages.  There are punitive damages and damages related to intangibles such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, impairment, disfigurement, etc.

The Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division issued an opinion in June 21, 2022, that opened the door for “equitable relief” for a claimants.  While that remedy has long been available, it is rare to see it occur.

The opinion is styled, David Corsaro v. Columbia Hospital At Medical City Dallas Subsidiary LP, et al.

Lawyers who handle Employee Retirement Income Security Act cases will want to know about this June 2022, opinion from the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.  The opinion is a win for ERISA cases.  It is styled, Michael Cloud v. The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan.

This case represents the first time in many years where a court has ruled in favor of a claimant.  For reference, there are many good cases that resolved/settled prior to a court rendering an opinion.  But, for those cases that do not get resolved it is rare for the person making the claim to prevail.

The opinion in this case is 84 pages long.  Very little of the opinion will be cited here but for attorneys handling ERISA cases, it is a must read.

Here is a case wherein one of the issues was whether or not an employee was eligible for Long Term Disability (LTD) based on the definition in the policy of “full time” employee.

This is a 2022, case is from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is an appeal from the Northern District of Texas.  The opinion in the case is styled, James W. Newsom v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company.

Newsome had a policy that, among other things, provided short term disability (STD) benefits and LTD benefits.  The plan is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

Here is an opinion from the United States 5th Circuit dealing with ERISA.  This particular case discusses the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).  While the case is not a life insurance case, the ruling would also apply to life insurance situations.  The style of the case is Ramirez v. Inter-Continental Hotels.

Ramirez had filed suit in State Court, asserting various contract, tort, and statutory causes of action against his former employer and its insurance carrier, Travelers.  The Defendants removed the case to federal court, asserting ERISA.

Ramirez concedes, this lawsuit is essentially one to recover benefits from an ERISA plan.  As such, it comes within the scope of ERISA’s civil enforcement provision, Section 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. Section 1132(a)(1)(B), which allows a civil action to be brought (1) by a participant or beneficiary (B) to recover benefits due to him under the terms of the plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under the terms of the plan.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) applies to a lot of employer benefit plans.  Each of these cases need to be examined by looking at the wording of the plan and the facts of the case.

A 2021 opinion from the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, is a good opinion to look at when there is a cause of action for Promissory Estoppel.  The style of the case is, Medarc, LLC vs. Meritain Health, Inc.

Promissory Estoppel is the legal principle that a promise is enforceable by law, even if made without formal consideration when a promisor has made a promise to a promisee who then relies on that promise to his subsequent detriment.

ERISA stands for Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.  The way ERISA cases are handled is unique from a legal perspective.  This is illustrated in a 2021, opinion from the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division.  The opinion is styled, Carol Sue Allen, Et Al. v. Sherman Operating Company, LLC.

This is an appeal from a Magistrate’s summary judgment ruling in favor of Sherman.

Allen was injured at work.  She made a claim for disability benefits under a plan provided by her employer, which is an ERISA plan.  Her claim for benefits was denied by the plan administrator.  She filed suit alleging various causes of action.  The cause of action discussed here has to do with her assertion there were violations of the ERISA plan.  She claims the plan administrator abused its discretion when her clam for benefits.

Lawyers who handle long-term disability (LTD) claims that are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), will want to read this opinion.  The opinion is titled, Enrique Talamantes v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.  It is a 2021, opinion from the United States Fifth Circuit.  It is a ruling that is favorable to the insured, which is unusual in cases governed by ERISA.

Plaintiff, was an engineer for him employer, BD.  BD provided its employees LTD coverage through plans governed by ERISADuring the relevant time period, BD used two insurers, Standard Insurance Co. (“Standard”) for the 2016 calendar year and MetLife Insurance Co. (“MetLife”) for the 2017 calendar year, to fund LTD payments under the Plan.

On November 9, 2016, Plaintiff became disabled due to trigeminal neuralgia and underwent microvascular decompression surgery.  In light of this disability, Plaintiff was approved for and paid short-term disability(“STD”) benefits for 34 days under the Plan from November 18, 2016 through December 22, 2016.  The Plan’s STD benefits were paid by BD and administered by Sedgwick Claims Management Services (“Sedgwick”) and did not involve Standard or MetLife.  On December 23, 2016, Plaintiff returned to full-time active work.  Standard’s policy terminated on December 31, 2016, and MetLife’s policy became effective on January 1, 2017. On January 12, 2017, Plaintiff stopped working and again became disabled because  of a relapse in his trigeminal neuralgia symptoms.

Life insurance denials are much more common than people realize.  Most people would be of the opinion that once a person had paid for life insurance and then a death occurs, that the policy would pay.  That is not the case.

Here is an opinion from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.  It is styled, Sydney Joe Gray v. Minnesota Life Insurance Company.  This case involves an accidental death policy that is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

The lawsuit is brought under 29 U.S.C., Section 1132(a)(1)(B).  The deceased, Michael Gray had an accidental death policy he obtained through his employment.  Sydney Gray is the beneficiary of the policy.

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