Orr v. Assurant Employee Benefits, 786 F.3d 596 (7th Cir. 2015), concerned the failure to exhaust administrative remedies following the denial of a claim for AD&D benefits. The plan in question required two administrative appeals; the administrator advised plaintiffs of these two appeals, and specifically stated that the failure to complete both reviews could result in dismissal of a lawsuit.
The court first rejected plaintiffs’ argument that they had pursued two appeals, and concluded that they had not exhausted their administrative remedies. Next, the court found that exhaustion would not have been futile. The court also rejected plaintiffs’ “novel grounds” to excuse the exhaustion requirement. Of note, the court ruled that, where the appeal procedure is clearly spelled out, a misinterpretation of their obligations cannot excuse a failure to exhaust: “We will not penalize USIC for the Orrs’ attorney’s claimed misinterpretation of these straightforward policies.”