Apr 23, 2019

Post-Glenn Conflict of Interest Discovery

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Brian S. King
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Last week I blogged about the Nolan case from the Ninth Circuit.  Expanding on the theme of discovery in ERISA benefit recovery cases, a couple of post-Glenn federal district cases provide more detail on the specifics of what conflict of interest discovery is permissible by plaintiffs who seek court review of their denied claims. The cases are Burgio v. The Prudential Life Ins. Co. of America, 253 F.R.D. 219 (E.D.N.Y. 2008), from a few months ago and Santos v. Quebecor World Long Term Disability Plan, from last week. I’ve place the two rulings in the website library.

They are both worth some study for the specific types of information claimants should be seeking to determine the extent to which an insurer’s inherent conflict of interest has tainted the decision-making process for any particular ERISA claim. One of the real advantages for claimants about the conflict of interest discovery allowed by the Supreme Court in Glenn and followed up by Cross-Hogan, Burgio and Santos is that it has little downside. The discovery doesn’t allow the insurer to get additional information that bolsters its denial. But it does allow the plaintiff to get information that, potentially, calls into question a plan fiduciary’s commitment to ERISA’s stringent fiduciary duty and claims procedure requirements.

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