Los Angeles Daily Journal Publishes Article on August 28, 2019 by Robert McKennon Entitled “Ruling Could Send Shock Waves Through ERISA Claims Industry”

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Legal Articles, Life Insurance, News, Retirement Plans September 04, 2019

In the August 28, 2019 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Daily Journal published an article written by the McKennon Law Group PC’s Robert J. McKennon.  The article addresses a recent case by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Dorman v. Charles Schwab, which overruled the Ninth Circuit precedent Amaro v. Continental Can Co. and enforced an arbitration clause in a pension plan on the basis that Supreme Court precedent had impliedly overruled its opinion in Amaro.  Given the expansive reading of arbitration clauses by the Supreme Court and now the Ninth Circuit, it is likely that more ERISA pension claims will be litigated on an individualized basis and will be litigated in arbitration proceedings.

Ruling

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Court Denies Insurer’s Motion to Dismiss, Finding Plan Language Did Not Clearly Require Administrative Exhaustion Prior to Filing Suit

Posted in: Appeals, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Policy Interpretation September 04, 2019

Ordinarily, a participant or beneficiary of a plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) must avail himself or herself of the plan’s internal review procedures before bringing a civil action in federal court for recovery of plan benefits.  This includes group ERISA plans offering long-term disability, life, health or accidental death benefits.  Although ERISA does not explicitly require exhaustion of administrative remedies, federal courts have held that an ERISA plan participant must exhaust the plan’s administrative appeal procedure before filing a federal lawsuit.  See Vaught v. Scottsdale Healthcare Corp. Health Plan, 546 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2008).  However, according to the Ninth Circuit, this exhaustion requirement applies only if the plan itself requires exhaustion.  …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Five: Procedural and Practical Considerations to an ERISA Claim

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 22, 2019

In this several part Blog Series entitled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Five of this Series, we discuss procedural considerations to an ERISA claim, as well as deadlines and timeframes to carefully monitor.

When first reviewing a potential ERISA matter, it is crucial to first determine the procedural history of your client’s claim and whether there have been any denials.  Most denial letters in ERISA cases set forth specific deadlines to respond to an appeal.  In fact, the Department of …

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Speca v. Aetna: “Rush to Judgment” in Just 14 Days Violates ERISA Rights to Full and Fair Review and Appeal

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 22, 2019

ERISA guarantees claimants a “full and fair review” as well as an appeal of any denial by the insurance company.  Can a disability claims insurer deny a claim too quickly and thus violate its duty to provide a full and fair review?  A recent decision answered “yes” to this question.  In Speca v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 2019 WL 3754210 (D. Nev. August 8, 2019), the court ruled that Aetna Life Insurance Company (“Aetna”) did not provide a “full and fair review” and effectively cut off any meaningful access to an appeal when it denied a claim in just 14 days (without even waiting to receive any medical records).

Plaintiff, Paul Speca, worked at Home Depot until November 6, 2015 …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Four: Denial of an ERISA Disability Claim or Appeal

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 16, 2019

In this several-part blog series titled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, to handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Four of this series, we discuss ERISA claim denials.  Our focus in this article will be mostly on disability insurance claim denials.

When denying a claim, an insurer is required to provide a written explanation of the basis of its denial.  Under Section 503 of ERISA, “every employee benefit plan shall . . . provide adequate notice in writing to any participant or beneficiary whose claim for benefits …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Three: Plan and Claims Administrators

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 14, 2019

In this several part Blog Series entitled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health and disability claim, from navigating a claim, handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Three of this Series, we discuss the roles of various Administrators, the administrative record and the laws requiring Administrators to provide their records to a claimant.

Two different entities manage an ERISA plan, the Plan Administrator and the Claims Administrator.  Often times, the two roles are performed by different entities.  The Plan Administrator manages and sponsors the plan and must ensure that the plan complies with applicable regulations.  The Plan Administrator is …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Two: Filing an ERISA Disability Claim

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 13, 2019

In this several-part blog series titled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, to handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Two of this series, our focus in this article will be on the filing of a claim.

Often, clients contact our firm before they have filed any life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim for benefits with their insurer.  In these circumstances, we can assist them on an hourly or contingency fee basis.  Our firm is able to put the client in the best position possible …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part One: ERISA Background, Purpose and Timing Requirements

Posted in: ERISA August 12, 2019

In this several part Blog Series entitled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we will discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health and disability claim, from navigating a claim, handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part One of this Series, we discuss the background and purpose of ERISA, along with procedural rules and practical considerations for a disability claim.

Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) (29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2)) in response to public dissatisfaction with poorly funded pension plans, onerous vesting requirements and labor leader misuse of union benefit funds.  Senator Jacob Javits, a sponsor of ERISA, observed at the time that …

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Cassim v. Allstate Insurance: Attorney’s Fees in Contingency-Fee “Bad Faith” Cases

Posted in: Attorneys' Fees, Bad Faith, Disability Insurance, ERISA, Health Insurance, Insurance Litigation Blog, Legal Articles July 26, 2019

Since 2004, when the California Supreme Court ruled that a “portion” of contingency attorney’s fees are recoverable in bad-faith insurance cases, plaintiffs and their lawyers have been able to recover attorney’s fees based in part on the specific terms of the contingency-fee retainer agreement.  For starters, in order to recover attorney’s fees in these actions, a policyholder must prove that (1) contractual benefits were withheld in bad faith, and (2) reasonable fees were incurred by the policyholder to recover those benefits.  However, any attorney’s fees incurred merely to prove the alleged “bad faith” claims are not recoverable at all; only fees incurred to prove actual coverage are recoverable.  Cassim v. Allstate Insurance, 33 Cal.4th 780, 811 (2004).

In Cassim

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McBean v. United of Omaha Life: Judge Anello Finds Employer Liable for Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Orders Payment of Life Insurance Policies’ Face Value under Equitable Surcharge Theory

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Legal Articles, Life Insurance July 02, 2019

McBean v. United of Omaha Life: Judge Anello Finds Employer Liable for Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Orders Payment of Life Insurance Policies’ Face Value under Equitable Surcharge Theory

Application of the doctrine of “equitable surcharge” in ERISA has become a very significant theory of recovery for ERISA plan participants in obtaining their life insurance and medical insurance benefits.  In a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, McBean v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, 2019 WL 1508456, the ERISA surcharge theory was used to overturn the denial of a life insurance claim, thus salvaging substantial life insurance benefits that would otherwise have been lost through breach of fiduciary duty and misrepresentation.

In McBean

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