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Tag Archives: breach of fiduciary duty

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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Breach of Fiduciary Duty under ERISA: Ninth Circuit Clarifies That Mere Disclosure of Plan Documents Is Insufficient “Actual Knowledge” to Trigger Statute of Limitations

Posted in: Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog, Pension Benefits, Statute of Limitations January 23, 2019

In pension and savings plan cases, it can often take several years before an employee realizes that there has been a breach of fiduciary duty.  Typically, an employee’s financial loss triggers an investigation that later reveals the facts of the breach.  But how long does an employee have to bring a claim in court?  The answer depends on the employee’s “actual knowledge” of the facts of the breach or violation.  There is a conflict among federal circuit courts of appeal on whether an employee should be deemed to have knowledge of 401(k) prospectuses and fund information simply because the employer makes this information available to the employee.  In a recent decision by the Ninth Circuit, Sulyma v. Intel Corp. Investment

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Discovery Disputes in ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Cases: Do the Usual Limitations Apply?

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Administrative Record, Disability Insurance, Discovery, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance December 27, 2018

Discovery Disputes in ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Cases: Do the Usual Limitations Apply?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) manages many of the benefits people receive from their employers.  These benefits include short-term and long-term disability insurance, health insurance, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance and pension plans.  When a claim under an ERISA plan is denied, the beneficiary usually must file an administrative appeal with the Claims Administrator for the benefits.  If, after filing an administrative appeal, the Claims Administrator still denies the claim, the beneficiary may sue the Claims Administrator to obtain the benefits in question.  ERISA claims differ from more traditional law suits.  A judge, not a jury, determines whether the beneficiary …

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Breach of Fiduciary Duty under ERISA: Making the Insurer or Plan Administrator Responsible for their actions towards a Plan’s Participants and Beneficiaries

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance, Waiver & Estoppel November 06, 2018

In a previous blog, we addressed the doctrines of equitable estoppel and waiver when the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) governs their insurance or pension plan.  As we explained, both doctrines provide an insured with methods of forcing an insurance company to honor its word and previous conduct.  However, insureds often have difficulty invoking the doctrines.  ERISA governs a wide variety of plans that provide life insurance, disability insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance and pension benefits.  Given the challenges of invoking equitable estoppel and waiver in the ERISA context, do plan participants and their beneficiaries have other ERISA specific tools to force insurers to honor their word and previous conduct?  Luckily, they do.  A lawsuit …

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Do Arbitration Clauses in Employment Contracts Automatically Preclude Employees From Litigating ERISA Claims?

Posted in: Annuities, Beneficiaries, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog, Pensions, Retirement Plans August 29, 2018

Many times, employees must sign written employment contracts before beginning a new position.  These contracts generally set forth the terms of the relationship between the employer and employee.  They also establish both the rights and responsibilities of the two parties.  Employers often include an arbitration clause in their employment contract.  This means that any disputes that arise between the employer and employee must be settled through arbitration, rather than through the courts.

But what happens when an employee sues his employer not on his own behalf, but on behalf of another entity for claims that the employee cannot bring in his individual capacity?  For instance, in the context of ERISA, employees who participate in an employer-sponsored ERISA plan can bring …

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High Court Changes Cumis Landscape

Posted in: Attorneys Fees, Attorneys' Fees, Case Updates, Duty to Defend, General Liablity August 24, 2017

We all know the maxim that “bad facts make bad law.”  Two years after J.R. Marketing, LLC prevailed in the Court of Appeal concerning its dispute with its commercial general liability insurer, Hartford, it ran out of luck before the California Supreme Court in its fight over important Cumis counsel issues.  Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. J.R. Marketing, LLC, 190 Cal. Rptr. 3d 599, 2015 DJDAR 9111 (Cal. Aug. 10, 2015).  This is a must read for every lawyer in California that acts as Cumis counsel.

The High Court held an insurance company can sue independent counsel (i.e., Cumis counsel) directly for reimbursement of unreasonable or unnecessary legal charges counsel billed it to defend its insured.  This …

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Multi-Million Dollar Disgorgement Award Struck Down in Rochow - But the Disgorgement Remedy May Still Be Alive

Posted in: Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog March 31, 2015

In December 2013, we published an article highlighting the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ bold decision to award the plaintiff disability benefits plus $2.8 million in disgorged earnings, as a potential “game-changer” in Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) litigation—that is, if it survived review.  Rochow v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 737 F.3d 415 (6th Cir. 2013) (“Rochow I”).  Alas, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the decision in February 2014 and stayed the case.  Rochow v. Life Ins. Co., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3158 (6th Cir. Feb. 19, 2014) (“Rochow II”).  Finally, in March 2015, the Court of Appeals issued an en banc decision vacating the disgorgement …

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Third-Party ERISA Administrator Abused Discretion by Denying Medical Coverage: A Tale of What Not to Do

Posted in: Abuse of Discretion, Administrative Record, Conflict of Interest, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Health Insurance, Standard of Review September 16, 2014

Sometimes an administrator so unashamedly abuses its discretion in handling an insurance claim that its actions constitute a textbook example of “what not to do” for other administrators and the ensuing decision provides a clear illustration of how courts apply an abuse of discretion standard of review under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”).  Indeed, a recent case clarified that plan administrators and third-party claims administrators alike are held to comparable standards when issuing claims decisions.  In Pacific Shores Hospital v. United Behavioral Health, 2014 WL 4086784; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16062 (9th Cir. Cal. Aug. 20, 2014) (“Pacific Shores”) the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district court, finding the third-party administrator acted improperly by denying …

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Echague v. Met Life: Equitable Surcharge is an Available Remedy Against Unresponsive Plan Administrators Under ERISA

Posted in: Case Updates, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Life Insurance June 26, 2014

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) seeks to protect participants in employer-sponsored plans, but lack of adequate communication and transparency is an often an unfortunate byproduct of the insurance industry.  The California district court shed light on this issue in Echague v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68642 (N.D. Cal. May 19, 2014) by holding an insurer breaches its fiduciary duty when providing insufficient responses and the insured may be entitled to equitable surcharge.  Echague is highly beneficial to insureds and beneficiaries, as it warns plan fiduciaries (such as insurers and plan administrators/employers) to think twice before ignoring requests for information, giving incorrect information, or neglecting to provide updates regarding the policies they …

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California Court Limits the Enforceability of Contractual Limitation Periods Because the Insurer Failed to Properly Provide ERISA Plan Documents

Posted in: Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog June 14, 2013

In an interesting opinion concerning a dispute over long-term disability (“LTD”) insurance benefits due under an ERISA plan, a District Court held that an ERISA administrator cannot rely on a contractual limitation period to defeat an insured’s claim where it failed to provide the insured with sufficient documentation and/or notice of the existence of the limitation period.  The decision in Barnett v. California Edison Co. LTD Plan, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71345 (E.D. Cal. May 20, 2013) emphasizes that administrators of ERISA-governed policies must first discharge their fiduciary duty to fully inform the insured of existing contractual limitation periods before attempting to enforce provisions to defeat a lawsuit initiated by a plan participant.…

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