Legal Summary: Mulligan v. Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company
271 F.R.D. 584 (E.D. Tenn. 2011)
Provident refused to pay our client benefits, so we sued Provident on our client’s behalf. Mulligan v. Provident Life and Acc. Ins. Co., 271 F.R.D. 584, 587 (E.D. Tenn. 2011). Our argument was that Provident’s bias influenced its decision against our client, which violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Id.
To make that argument, we requested a variety of data and information from Provident, but it refused to answer our requests. Id. Therefore, we asked the court to intervene and order Provident to comply. Id. The court agreed that Provident wrongly withheld information from us and thus forced Provident to provide us more information. Id.
To explain its decision in our favor, the court first discussed the law that governs information requests in ERISA cases. See id. at 587-89. ERISA law normally allows only limited discovery requests, but for procedural challenges, such as our claim regarding Provident’s biased decision-making, the relevant law permits broader information requests beyond the administrative record. Id. at 588.
The court then addressed the law governing one type of request that we were making for information beyond the administrative record. See id. at 589. Our request was for historical evidence of Provident’s biased claim handling in the past. See id. ERISA law permits such requests, the court explained, as long as the requested evidence would be “suggestive of bias in a particular case” and is “reasonably calculated” to result in admissible evidence. Id. at 589-90 (citing Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 554 U.S. 105, 116-17; Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)).
After explaining the applicable law, the court explained that Provident should have complied with our request for the “monthly trend reports” that were provided to the Provident employees involved in deciding our client’s claim. Id. at 592-93. This information request was appropriate because it appeared “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” and had “the potential to show whether those employees were made aware of the effect of their claims decisions on company profitability.” Id.
Lastly, the court briefly addressed another dispute we had with Provident over our discovery requests. Id. at 594. Provident had already agreed to provide us with job descriptions for the employees that handled our client’s claim, but only if it could convince the court to enter a protective order that would “require the return or destruction of documents produced in discovery.” Id. at 594-95. The court declined to issue an order to that effect, because our firm had already agreed to limit our use of Provident’s documents to future cases in which the existence of the confidential document was denied. See id. at 595. The court concluded that such use of the documents should be permitted. Id.