Recent Case Law on Extra-Administrative Discovery After Glenn

When people start emailing you to inquire about your health, you know you have been away from your blog too long. Rumors of my demise, however, were premature, as I was simply on vacation; normally I keep up with developments and am able to put up some posts while away, but I didn’t get a chance to this time. A number of interesting things did cross my desk while I was away, and a number of them I read remotely while out; I will try to pass along the more interesting pieces over the next few days.

For starters though, my colleague Patrick Spangler at Vedder Price in Chicago passed along a survey of some recent discovery rulings by the federal courts related to whether extra-administrative record discovery should be allowed in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in MetLife v. Glenn. They find that such discovery is warranted under Glenn, but only if linked to the possibility of proving biased decision making. Patrick notes:

In Hogan-Cross v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 2008 WL 2938056, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 2008) the Southern District of New York compelled written discovery seeking information related to: (1) denial rates; and (2) the compensation structure for the claims representatives who evaluated the participant’s claim. However, the Southern District previously granted the participant’s motion to compel and simply confirmed its decision on Metlife’s motion to reconsider in light of Glenn, reasoning that the requests were appropriate under existing Second Circuit law and further supported by Glenn.

The Northern District of Texas reached a similar conclusion in Copus v. Life Ins. Co. of N.A., 2008 WL 2794807, at *1-2 (N.D. Tex. 2008). The court reasoned that a history of biased decisionmaking and steps taken by the administrator to reduce a conflict are relevant and should be considered under Glenn. Incorporating existing Fifth Circuit precedent, the Court allowed discovery on a variety of topics, including: (1) the selection of the claims reviewer; (2) steps taken by the administrator to reduce the conflict; (3) the compensation system for claims reviewers, and (4) any claims procedures or manuals. 

The decisions are similar to Dubois, a case out of the United States District Court for Maine that I discussed previously, which addressed when such discovery is appropriate in light of Glenn and found, like these other two decisions, both that: (a) it is appropriate if necessary to evidence biased, conflicted decision making; and (b) existing circuit precedent on the issue was consistent with Glenn and could govern the question.