Under Abatie, Discovery of Profitability Reports is Not Allowed

One of the most interesting questions in ERISA litigation is: What constitutes the administrative record for purposes of determining whether the administrator abused its discretion in making a claim determination?  Bartholomew v. Unum Life Ins. Co., 579 F. Supp. 2d 1339 (W.D. Wash. 2008) helped answer this question.

Plaintiff, who sued to recover benefits under her long-term disability (LTD) plan, sought to expand the scope of discovery under ERISA by seeking documents outside the Administrative Record. Among others, the Plaintiff requested; “Details of compensation and financial incentives,” “revenue and profitability reports for the last 10 years,” and “[a]ny document discussing the claims handling process published during the last 10 years.” Despite the recent rulings in Abatie allowing weight to be given to structural conflict of interest analysis, the District Court held that Plaintiff was not allowed to engage in a fishing expedition. Here, the discovery requests were not narrowly tailored to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. Therefore, Plaintiff’s request for discovery outside the statutory guidelines was appropriately denied.

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