This is an Advertisement

Articles Posted in ERISA Disability

social-image-logo-og-1-300x300
Recently, a federal judge in Texas court ruled in favor of retired NFL player, Michael Cloud, determining that the administrators of The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan (“Plan”) violated their fiduciary duties under ERISA in denying Cloud a full and fair application review. Cloud’s appeal concerned his eligibility for the highest level of disability benefits under the Plan, which was subsequently denied by the Defendants.

Cloud boasts an impressive NFL career, playing 7 seasons, including for the New England Patriots during their 2004 Super Bowl winning year. Cloud additionally played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Giants between 1999 and his retirement in 2006. During his career, Cloud states that he injured “virtually every aspect of his body” as well as endured numerous cases of head trauma known as “dings” (an instance where a player’s vision goes black due to a hard hit to their head). One of Cloud’s last head injuries sustained in 2004 led to his early retirement, as the frequency and severity of the injuries had caused “cumulative mental disorders.” In 2010, Cloud began receiving benefits under the retirement Plan, and was found to be “totally and permanently” disabled in 2014. Subsequently, in 2016 Cloud applied for reclassification under the Plan but was denied both initially and on appeal.

Cloud brought an action against the Plan in 2020, alleging that his application for reclassification was never fully reviewed by the Defendants. He alleged that the Defendants (including six board members for the Plan) did not adequately review his over 1000-page application. Instead, a paralegal was made to write a summary of the application for the administrators. It has been speculated that the decision on the matter was already drafted before the administrators viewed the summary of the new appeal, as it cited to incorrect documents that belonged to the wrong benefits plan. Further, the denial letter included contradicting information with written minutes taken at the board meeting during their deliberation; the minutes state that the only reason for the denial was the Cloud did not show by clear and convincing evidence the existence of a new injury, while the letter additionally states that the application was made outside of a 180-day deadline among other timing issues. During closing arguments, counsel for Cloud stated that the issue of unfair denial is not new nor exclusive to Cloud, and that the Plan consistently failed to fully review applications by reviewing as many as 50 at a time with no discussion of the specific cases.

social-image-logo-og-1-300x300
A federal court in Pennsylvania recently certified a class of Plaintiffs under Defendant Aetna Life Insurance Co.’s disability benefits plan (“Plan”). The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants forced beneficiaries who had received payments for personal injury claims to send the payments back to the company in violation of ERISA.

The named Plaintiff, Joanne Wolff, first filed suit against Aetna in 2019 when the company asked for the repayment of over $50,000 in long-term disability benefits stemming from a temporary disability suffered by the Plaintiff after a car wreck. At the time of the request, Wolff told the Defendants that her employer, Bank of America, did not allow reimbursement, and negotiations ended in an agreement that that Wolff would pay $30,000 despite this fact.

This did not end the dispute, however, and Wolff along with an at least 48-member class now allege that Aetna violated ERISA when it required reimbursement payments of long-term personal injury disability payments. Aetna responded that class certification would be inappropriate, as the proposed class did not meet the specifications required for certification under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Mainly, the Defendants argued that some of the members of the proposed class should be disqualified, thus the number of participants in the class did not meet the numerosity requirement. It argued that since some of the members of the class were from different companies, there was not sufficient typicality to fulfill the requirements under the Civil Rules and members under other employers should be disqualified, reducing the class number to 28. Aetna also argued that timing issues barred several more participants under the relevant statutes of limitations.

social-image-logo-og-1-300x300
Recently, a federal judge in Texas court ruled in favor of retired NFL player, Michael Cloud, determining that the administrators of The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan (“Plan”) violated their fiduciary duties under ERISA in denying Cloud a full and fair application review. Cloud’s appeal concerned his eligibility for the highest level of disability benefits under the Plan, which was subsequently denied by the Defendants.

Cloud boasts an impressive NFL career, playing 7 seasons, including for the New England Patriots during their 2004 Super Bowl winning year. Cloud additionally played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Giants between 1999 and his retirement in 2006. During his career, Cloud states that he injured “virtually every aspect of his body” as well as endured numerous cases of head trauma known as “dings” (an instance where a player’s vision goes black due to a hard hit to their head). One of Cloud’s last head injuries sustained in 2004 led to his early retirement, as the frequency and severity of the injuries had caused “cumulative mental disorders.” In 2010, Cloud began receiving benefits under the retirement Plan, and was found to be “totally and permanently” disabled in 2014. Subsequently, in 2016 Cloud applied for reclassification under the Plan but was denied both initially and on appeal.

Cloud brought an action against the Plan in 2020, alleging that his application for reclassification was never fully reviewed by the Defendants. He alleged that the Defendants (including six board members for the Plan) did not adequately review his over 1000-page application. Instead, a paralegal was made to write a summary of the application for the administrators. It has been speculated that the decision on the matter was already drafted before the administrators viewed the summary of the new appeal, as it cited to incorrect documents that belonged to the wrong benefits plan. Further, the denial letter included contradicting information with written minutes taken at the board meeting during their deliberation; the minutes state that the only reason for the denial was the Cloud did not show by clear and convincing evidence the existence of a new injury, while the letter additionally states that the application was made outside of a 180-day deadline among other timing issues. During closing arguments, counsel for Cloud stated that the issue of unfair denial is not new nor exclusive to Cloud, and that the Plan consistently failed to fully review applications by reviewing as many as 50 at a time with no discussion of the specific cases.

social-image-logo-og-300x300
Recently, the Boston Children’s Hospital asked a judge in federal court to dismiss a case brought by former employees that alleged the charging of “exorbitant” fees relating to the management of ERISA retirement plans. The Hospital argues that fees associated with the plans were not exorbitant and no damage was sustained by plan members under the class, thus the case against them should be dismissed. The Hospital additionally argues that there was no requirement for them to pick the lowest possible costs for administration of their ERISA plans. Further, they argue that the plaintiffs in the class at issue were not deeply invested in the plans that are involved.

The Plaintiffs (former employees of the Hospital) in the class allege that the Hospital’s fiduciary duties under ERISA were breached when they overcharged participants for fees relating to recordkeeping. Further, the Plaintiffs allege that the Hospital encouraged participants to invest in funds that were more expensive than others and underperformed compared to their counterparts. The case was originally brought by four former employees of the Hospital, with the class now encompassing compensation for 18,580 employees. The Plaintiffs state that while participants in similar plans were required to pay between $23 to $42 per year in recordkeeping fees, participants in the Hospital’s plans at issue paid $73. The large size of the plan, according to the Plaintiffs, would have enabled them to negotiate for lower fees if the Hospital had been proactive about ensuring the performance of their duties to the participants.

The Hospital counters in their motion to dismiss that, “ERISA does not require Children’s to select the least expensive or best performing investment, and Plaintiff’s cannot plausibly allege a breach merely by pointing to alternative target date funds that have some similarities and that purportedly cost a bit less or performed a bit better.” Further, the Hospital alleges that the Plaintiffs are essentially attempting to make arguments that are directly opposed, stating that there are no comparable plans that are both less expensive and perform better than that those at issue in the case. Regarding the plans exemplified by the Plaintiffs as less expensive, the Hospital states that the cheaper plans did not perform as well as those chosen by the Defendant. The plans argued by the Plaintiffs to be comparable also had different payment structures and provided different services to participants, according to the Hospital.

judge-orders-prudential-must-produce-documents

Attorney Elizabeth Thornsbury received a favorable Order in federal court against The Prudential Insurance Company of America in an ERISA case on September 4, 2019.  The judge granted Plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery stating that:

“Aliff may conduct some discovery to enable the Court to determine whether such conflict affected Prudential’s benefit decisions.”

Prudential had previously only answered part of Aliff’s discovery requests claiming that she was not entitled to all of the information requested. However, the judge continued to explain that:

judge-orders-reliance-standard

Elizabeth Thornsbury, one of the firm’s attorneys experienced in short- and long-term disability claims, received an Order in federal court against Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company on June 12, 2019. Judge Caldwell found that “Reliance Standard acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Asher’s appeal…” and that “the final denial decision was not the result of a ‘deliberate principled reasoning process.’”  The case was remanded to Reliance Standard to give our client’s claim “a full and fair review.”

Click here for a copy of the Order.

six-blunders-to-avoid-when-applying-for-erisa-disability-benefits

You need to know what are the common mistakes to watch out for in order to increase your chance of getting ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) long-term disability benefits.

Did you know that you may be eligible to claim long-term disability benefits under ERISA should you be unable to work because of sudden disability? You may actually also enjoy these benefits under an employer-sponsored group insurance plan. However, how you apply for the benefits is critical to get the best possible outcome. You cannot discount that the process in ERISA long-term disability benefits application is fraught with challenges and a simple oversight can adversely affect your chance to get the benefits. As such, it helps to know what to watch out. Even better, consulting an ERISA lawyer in Kentucky will be advantageous to you do not waste any time understanding the complicated process of ERISA benefits.

Avoid These ERISA Disability Missteps

simplified-employee-pension-plans

Simplified Employee Pension Plans (SEP) – A plan in which the employer makes contributions on a tax-favored basis to individual retirement accounts (IRAs) owned by the employees. If certain conditions are met, the employer is not subject to the reporting and disclosure requirements of most retirement plans. Under a SEP, an IRA is set up by or for an employee to accept the employer’s contributions.

Is it possible to sue under ERISA?

Yes, you have a right to sue your plan and its fiduciaries to enforce or clarify your rights under ERISA and your plan in the following situations:

what-is-erisa

Our experienced ERISA Disability Lawyers in Kentucky will help you answer questions to your ERISA Disability needs.

1. THE BASICS

A federal law known as ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) is a complicated and comprehensive law that sets minimum standards for retirement and welfare benefit plans in private industry. ERISA does the following:

Contact Information