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Department of Labor Proposes to Delay Implementation of Disability Claim Regulations

On October 6, 2017, the Department of Labor signed a proposed Rule “to delay for ninety (90) days – through April 1, 2018 – the applicability of the Final Rule amending the claims procedure requirements applicable to ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits.” Specifically, the DOL proposes: Section 2560.503-1 is amended by removing … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Holds That Violation of DOL Claim Regulations Can Result in a Loss of Deference

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that claim fiduciaries must strictly comply with ERISA claim regulations or lose the deferential standard of review, as we have discussed in previous posts: Second Circuit rejects “substantial compliance” rule, Insurer’s Failure to Establish “Special Circumstances” for Extension of Time to Decide LTD Appeal Warrants De Novo Review, and … Continue Reading

DOL Issues Final Rule Delaying Fiduciary Rule until June 9, 2017

As ordered by President Trump in a presidential memorandum (the “Memorandum”) on February 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a 60-day delay to the “fiduciary rule,” which revised the definition of “fiduciary” for retirement investment advice purposes. The rule was originally set to become effective on April 10, 2017; however, after receiving … Continue Reading

District of Connecticut Rules that Violations of Claims Procedure Regulations Result in Loss of Discretion

Following the 2016 decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Halo v. Yale Health Plan, 819 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2016), in which the Second Circuit rejected the doctrine of “substantial compliance” with ERISA claim regulations in favor of a much stricter interpretation, courts within the Second Circuit have increasingly held insurers and … Continue Reading

DOL Calls For Delay of the Fiduciary Rule

As ordered by President Trump in last month’s presidential memorandum (the “Memorandum”), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a 60-day delay to its conflict of interest rule (commonly referred to as the “fiduciary rule”). The effective date of the fiduciary rule, which revised the definition of a “fiduciary” for retirement investment advice purposes, is currently … Continue Reading

Insurer’s Failure to Establish “Special Circumstances” for Extension of Time to Decide LTD Appeal Warrants De Novo Review

In a recent decision from the Southern District of New York in a case concerning a dispute over the denial of long-term disability (LTD) benefits, a District Court judge held that the LTD insurer had failed to establish special circumstances warranting an extension of the time frame for deciding the claimant’s appeal during the administrative … Continue Reading

Does Presidential Memorandum Affect Disability Claim Regulations?

The DOL’s recent amendments to the disability claim regulations, 29 C.F.R. §  2560.503-1, became effective January 18, 2017, but the new provisions in that new regulation do not take effect until January 1, 2018 (for claims filed after that date). The January 18, 2017 effective date was apparently intentional, as it was just before inauguration … Continue Reading

DOL Issues New Regulations for Plans Providing Disability Benefits

On December 19, 2016, the Department of Labor ended a year-long process to update the regulations governing claim procedures for disability plans, 29 C.F.R. §  2560.503-1. The text of the new regulations, and the DOL’s explanation of changes and the comment process, can be found here. The DOL’s express goal in establishing these new regulations … Continue Reading

Second Circuit rejects “substantial compliance” rule

In Halo v. Yale Health Plan, 819 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2016), the Second Circuit made a significant change to the impact of ERISA claim regulations on subsequent litigation, rejecting the rule that it is sufficient for claim administrators to substantially comply with the regulations. Instead, the court held that, unless there is strict compliance … Continue Reading

Third Circuit rules that claim denial letters must disclose contractual limitation period

In Mirza v. Ins. Administrator of Amer., Inc., 800 F.3d 129 (3d Cir. 2015), the court held that the failure to disclose a contractual limitation period in a denial letter precluded enforcement of that limitation, and required application of the most analogous state limitation period. The district court had ruled, in granting summary judgment for … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Adopts “Clear-Notice” Rule Before Statutory Penalties Can Be Imposed

Cultrona v. Nationwide Life Ins. Co., 748 F.3d 698 (6th Cir. 2014), involved the denial of benefits under an accidental death policy on the ground that the plaintiff’s husband’s death was excluded due to his intoxication. The court found that determination to be reasonable. But the court also affirmed the district court’s determination that the … Continue Reading

Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life: Supreme Court Holds that Plan Can Start Limitation Clock Before Benefit Claim Accrues

In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 571 U.S. __ (Dec. 16, 2013) , the Supreme Court held that a contractual limitation provision under which the clock begins to run before administrative remedies are exhausted  is enforceable under ERISA, as long as a reasonable time is left after exhaustion is expected to occur. … Continue Reading

Hartford v. Heimeshoff – ERISA Regulations and Equitable Tolling

At the District Court, Heimeshoff also argued that the limitation period in the plan should be equitably tolled because, she claimed the applicable ERISA regulation required Hartford to disclose the limitation period in its denial letter, and it failed to do so. Hartford argued that it was irrelevant whether the regulation required disclosure because Heimeshoff … Continue Reading

Heimeshoff v. Hartford – Motion to Dismiss

Hartford moved to dismiss the action because it was filed after the expiration of the policy’s contractual limitation period. The plain language of the Policy gave her until December 8, 2005 to submit proof of loss: she alleged that her disability began on June 6, 2005; the ninety-day Elimination Period would ordinarily end on September … Continue Reading

When Must a Claim Fiduciary Provide the Administrative Record? It May Be Later Than You Think

Any ERISA claim practitioner knows that a claimant is entitled to get a copy of the documents relevant to her claim on request and without charge. But when does the claimant’s right to this access become effective? More particularly, can the claim administrator defer production until after the claimant files an administrative appeal? A recent … Continue Reading

Including Ambiguous Plan Language Verbatim In the SPD Can Effectively Eliminate Discretion to Interpret It — At Least in the Fifth Circuit

In Koehler v. Aetna Health, Inc., 683 F.3d 182 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit criticized a health insurer for having an SPD that mirrored the plan, and held that Cigna v. Amara did not prevent the terms of the SPD from impacting plan interpretation. The plaintiff, a participant in an HMO, suffered from sleep … Continue Reading

Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Not Excused Even When Termination Notice Is Defective

In Schorsch v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., — F.3d — ,  2012 WL 3667977 (7th Cir. Aug. 28, 2012), the court “considered here whether the content of a termination notice, specifically the absence of particular information, caused the beneficiary’s failure to exhaust and whether [he is]  estopped from taking advantage of that failure.” The … Continue Reading
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