Articles Posted in ERISA

Repeating what was stated in the post immediate to this one, “It is important to understand how difficult claims that are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) can be.  The law in this area of law is very tough for claimants.”  This is illustrated again in a December 2020, opinion styled, Erica Talasek v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, et al.  The opinion is from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

The insured, Ben Talasek, had life insurance through a Plan his employer, NOV, offered.  NOV delegated authority and discretion to UNUM to handle claims and made benefit determinations.

Ben was covered by basic life insurance coverage and Ben also enrolled in a voluntary supplemental plan during November 2013.  Unlike the basic life insurance, which did not require medical underwriting, the supplemental life insurance required an employee to submit evidence of insurability and obtain approval for coverage by Unum.  On January 18, 2014, Unum sent Ben a letter informing him of an error in his application and the need for additional information.  Around this time, Ben was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Ben called Unum on January 21, 2014 to check on the status of his application and was told about the January 18 letter.  Ben corrected the error on the Evidence of Insurability Form and supplied additional information.  Ben called Unum again on February 12, 2014 to check on the status of the application and was told that the standard turnaround time for a coverage decision was 4-6 weeks.  On March 3, 2014,several weeks after receiving his cancer diagnosis, Ben provided blood and urine samples and basic health history as part of Unum’s requirement that he prove insurability prior to approval of coverage.  He did not mention the cancer diagnosis.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a confusing area of law for most people who have those type of policies and it is also confusing for attorneys.  An opinion dealing with the time periods for filing a life insurance claim are discussed at length in a 2021 opinion from the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.  The opinion is styled, Dusty Bauer and Allan Agababa v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburg, PA and AIG Claims, Inc.

This lawsuit is concerning accidental death benefits owed upon the death of Shelly Bernstein (Decedent).

The Decedent had an accidental death benefit policy through his employer which was funded by National and AIG.  The policy limited conditions under which the death benefits would be paid by providing contractual limitations periods.  Some of those limitations periods read as follows:

Here is a somewhat lengthy opinion in a case involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and a disability claim.  The opinion is from the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, and is styled, Jason Thomas Young v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company and Matrix Absence Management, Inc.

Plaintiff, Young, was insured by way of an ERISA disability plan through his employer when he was injured in an automobile accident.  He applied for and received disability benefits.  At a later date is recovered a substantial settlement from the insurance company of the person with whom he had the accident.  The disability plan administrator then attempted to offset the monies Young received from payments Young was receiving for disability pay.

Young filed suit and the plan administrator rescinded their earlier decision to offset payments.  After agreeing to make regular payments for disability without taking into account any offsets, the plan administrator filed a Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss Young’s claim based on the assertion that the matter was now moot and that Young has no standing to continue the lawsuit.

This post is a continuation of Parts 1, 2, and 3, posted earlier.  This case involves a life insurance policy claim denial that is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

The opinion is from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and is styled, Erica Talasek v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, et al.

As in most ERISA claims, the case is being decided on competing Motions for Summary Judgement.  The Court found in favor of Unum and explained it’s finding in detail.

Repeating what was stated in the post immediate to this one, “It is important to understand how difficult claims that are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) can be.  The law in this area of law is very tough for claimants.”  This is illustrated again in a December 2020, opinion styled, Erica Talasek v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, et al.  The opinion is from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

The insured, Ben Talasek, had life insurance through a Plan his employer, NOV, offered.  NOV delegated authority and discretion to UNUM to handle claims and made benefit determinations.

Ben was covered by basic life insurance coverage and Ben also enrolled in a voluntary supplemental plan during November 2013.  Unlike the basic life insurance, which did not require medical underwriting, the supplemental life insurance required an employee to submit evidence of insurability and obtain approval for coverage by Unum.  On January 18, 2014, Unum sent Ben a letter informing him of an error in his application and the need for additional information.  Around this time, Ben was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Ben called Unum on January 21, 2014 to check on the status of his application and was told about the January 18 letter.  Ben corrected the error on the Evidence of Insurability Form and supplied additional information.  Ben called Unum again on February 12, 2014 to check on the status of the application and was told that the standard turnaround time for a coverage decision was 4-6 weeks.  On March 3, 2014,several weeks after receiving his cancer diagnosis, Ben provided blood and urine samples and basic health history as part of Unum’s requirement that he prove insurability prior to approval of coverage.  He did not mention the cancer diagnosis.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) offers many of the same types of insurance coverage for individuals as other plans.  The distinctions with ERISA is that the plan is a plan for employers to offer to employees that is set and governed by Federal Law rather than State Law.

ERISA plans offer retirement programs, life insurance, disability insurance, and health insurance.  The Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, issued an opinion in November 2020, on a case that is governed by ERISA.  The opinion is styled, Wagna Mina huerta v. Shell Oil Company and Shell Oil Comprehensive Welfare Benefits Plan.

This case discussed a couple of issues.  One of those, rarely seen in an opinion, is discussed here.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) provides various kinds of insurance to employees.  The important thing for insurance lawyers to know about ERISA is that it is governed by Federal law and it preempts State law.  This is illustrated in a 2020, opinion from the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division.  The opinion is styled, Marco Z. v. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company, Forma Automotive, LLC.

Marco does not dispute that the health plan at issue is governed by the ERISA.  Further, it is undisputed that at the time of the incident forming the basis of this action Marco was a beneficiary of the subject ERISA health plan established and maintained by Forma Automotive and administered by UnitedHealthcare.

Marco sustained medical problems in Mexico and was forced to seek medical assistance.  Marco  assigned insurance benefits to the Hospital, which is not a network provider under the Plan.  As a non-network provider, it has no express contract with UnitedHealthcare establishing payment for medical services provided to beneficiaries of the Plan.

Here is a life insurance case which is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  The opinion is from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.  It is styled, Heidi Ballard v. Lincoln Life Assurance Company of Boston.

The deceased had an accidental death life insurance policy which was governed by ERISA.  The death resulted when the deceased, riding as a passenger in a golf cart, was thrown out of the car after the driver of the cart suddenly and unexpectedly accelerated the cart.  This was witnessed by others.

Lincoln Life denied the claim based on an exclusion in the policy excluding an accidental death that is the result of consuming alcohol.

Here is a case worthy of all attorneys handling Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) cases should read and take note about.  The opinion is from the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.  It is styled, James W. Newsom v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.

The most noteworthy aspect of this case is that it is a win for the employee.  A win for an employee in an ERISA case is extremely rare.

The Facts of the case are somewhat complicated and convoluted.  The focus here will be the Court’s interpretation of the policy language.

Here is an opinion for lawyers handling Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) cases.  The opinion is a 2020, opinion from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and is styled, Kimberly Holick v. Aetna Life Insurance Company.

Holick was an employee of Parkway Chevrolet and covered under its Aetna issued group insurance policy.  After an alleged injury, Holick’s doctor ordered an MRI and Aetna denied coverage.  Aetna later reversed its decison and Holick eventually received the MRI.

Holick claims Aetna wrongfully denied her treatment and failed to timely reverse its denial of coverage and the delay prevented timely repair and caused her pain and deformities.

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