Your Very Own ERISA Groundhog Day
Many long term disability claimants have severe, disabling medical conditions from which they will obviously never recover. Despite this sad reality, we have to remind such clients that in litigation, a court cannot award future benefits. Many clients are surprised to learn that despite winning their case and receiving all back benefits, their claim goes back before the claims administrator. Clients protest that the claims administrator might deny the claim again, even when there is no possibility of them getting better! This is true, and in fact, it could happen over and over and over again - just like Phil the weatherman reliving the same day in the movie Groundhog Day!
We have had a number of cases in which we filed the same claim before a federal court judge two or more times, and I have heard others with similar situations. As a result of this, our fee agreements are flexible enough to represent claimants over a number of years, so our clients don’t have to start all over with hiring a law firm. They also have peace of mind knowing that we will fight for them to keep them on claim.
A recent case reminds us of this problem relating to future benefits and the possibility of experiencing your own Groundhog Day. In Osborn, Sr. v. Principal Life Ins. Co., 2017 WL 4517621, (S.D. Ohio Oct. 10, 2017), the claimant sought to “enjoin the Defendants from termination of benefits until future order from this court.” The claimant was seeking to avoid going back to court over and over again regarding this same claim. Principal Life Insurance Company moved to strike this from the lawsuit, arguing that it amounted to a claim for future benefits not permitted under ERISA. See Ford v. Uniroyal Pension Plan, 154 F.3d 613, 620 (6th Cir. 1998) and Wade v. Life Ins. Co. of North America, 245 F. Supp.2d 182, 188 (D. Me. 2003). These cases concluded that award of future benefits not yet accrued violates ERISA’s purely compensatory remedial scheme. The court did strike this relief sought. And so it goes on.
Let us help you avoid, as much as possible, your very own Groundhog Day! Our ERISA lawyers know the games played, and we strive to rebuild justice in every case we handle.