Defendants Required to File Complete ERISA Record

In Kirsch v. Jefferson Pilot Financial Ins. Co., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43876 (D. Wis. Jun. 3, 2008), the ERISA defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff's claims for long-term disability benefits had been appropriately denied.  In support, the defendants filed only portions of the ERISA record.  The plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that the failure to file the complete ERISA record precluded summary judgment.  She asserted that the defendants should be required to re-file their motion after submitting the complete ERISA record, so that she would have a fair chance to respond.  The defendants then moved to file the full record with the court.    

The Wisconsin federal court agreed with the plaintiff on the need to file the full ERISA record, reasoning as follows:  

Although [the plaintiff] does not cite, and the court is unaware of, any binding authority explicitly requiring that the full administrative record be submitted prior to judicial review of a denial of benefits under ERISA, other district courts to address the issue have held that such a submission is necessary.  See e.g. Tinkler v. Level 3 Communications, LLC, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4953, 2008 WL 199901, at *11 (N.D. Oka. 2008) ("Regardless of the level of deference given to the Plan's decision, the Court must consider the entire administrative record . . . ."); Gentile v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 951 F. Supp. 284, 287 (D. Mass 1997) ("[T]hose cases which discuss judicial review of a denied benefit under ERISA uniformly assume that the full administrative record forms the basis of such a review, regardless of the standard of review applied. . . .  In the absence of the full record which is a prerequisite for this Court's review of the determination, summary judgment for [the defendant] will be denied.").  I find these cases persuasive and conclude that the entire administrative record should be submitted to the court to facilitate the review of the defendants' denial of benefits.

Accordingly, the court granted the defendants' motion to file the full ERISA record.  The court refused to force the defendants to re-file their motion, however, finding that the plaintiff had not submitted an affidavit indicating why she could not respond to the motion.  Indeed, the court noted that the plaintiff had actually responded to the motion on the merits and had submitted documents to validate her position.  The court also found it important that the defendants had already provided the full record to the plaintiff.  For these reasons, the court held that additional briefing would not be permitted after the filing of the full record.    

 

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