We have talked a lot about the different standards of review that courts should apply when reviewing an administrator’s decision concerning a claim for benefits under ERISA. But what about if the administrator never applied any review at all before the dispute ended up in the courts? Courts differ on whether this should change the standard of review, with many finding that, under those circumstances, a reviewing court should apply a de novo standard of review even if the plan reserved discretion to the administrator (something which would normally mean that the more deferential arbitrary and capricious standard of review should apply).
The First Circuit has not passed on this issue, but the federal district court here has just come out with its conclusion: it means nothing more than that the entire matter is remanded back to the administrator to actually perform the required review. You can find the case here.