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The Wagner Law Group Description 

The Wagner Law Group, A Professional Corporation, is a nationally recognized ERISA & employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor & human resources practice. 

 

Established in 1996, The Wagner Law Group has 22 attorneys engaged exclusively in employee benefits, estate planning and employment law. Six of our attorneys are AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell as having very high to preeminent legal abilities and ethical standards. The firm is among the largest ERISA boutiques in the country. Our practice is national in scope, with clients in more than 40 states and several foreign countries.

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Info

The Wagner Law Group

 

  Integrity | Excellence

  

Massachusetts Office 

Tel: (617) 357-5200 

Fax: (617) 357-5250 

99 Summer Street 

13th Floor

Boston, MA 02110


Florida Offices 

Tel: (561) 293-3590
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Suite 125
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

 

Tel:  (813) 603-2959

101 East Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 2140

Tampa, FL  33602

 

St. Louis Office

Tel: (314) 236-0065

100 South 4th Street, Suite 550

St. Louis, MO  63102

   

  San Francisco Office

Tel: (415) 625-0002

Fax: (415) 358-8300

315 Montgomery Street

Suite 904

San Francisco, CA 94104

  

  

www.wagnerlawgroup.com

 

 

 

 

May 15, 2015

 

 Health and Welfare Law Alert

 

 

 

Federal Court Finds Employer Failed to Deliver SPD Because It Failed to Follow ERISA's Electronic Disclosure Rules

 

 

 

 

A federal court has found that merely posting a summary plan description ("SPD") on a company intranet did not satisfy the electronic disclosure rules under ERISA. In Thomas v. CIGNA Group Ins., the court held that posting on an intranet without additional action does not satisfy ERISA's distribution requirements.

 

Background. In Thomas, the participant was covered by life insurance that was provided through her employer's ERISA-covered employee benefit plan. The participant became disabled, stopped working and also stopped paying premiums towards the life insurance. Although the policy had a waiver of premium provision for disability, the participant had not applied for the waiver within the specified time period and, according to the insurer, died after the policy had lapsed.

 

Following the participant's death, her beneficiary filed a claim for life insurance. The insurer denied the beneficiary's claim, arguing that the participant did not request a premium waiver and, therefore, was not covered by the plan at the time of death. In response, the beneficiary sued the employer and insurer, claiming that participant did not apply for the premium waiver because the employer failed to communicate this requirement.

 

Legal Proceedings. At trial, the employer argued that the participant should have known about the waiver requirements because they were included in the plan's SPD. However, the employer did not specifically distribute the SPD to plan participants, but rather made it available to participants by posting the SPD on its intranet site.

 

The Court noted that "the regulations relating to the disclosure of SPDs through electronic means require the SPD be 'furnished,' not simply made available. ERISA requires the administrator of an employee benefit plan... to make certain disclosures to participants, beneficiaries and other specified individuals.... Moreover, materials which are 'required' to be furnished to all participants covered under the plan and beneficiaries receiving benefits under the plan (other than beneficiaries under a welfare plan) must be sent by a method or methods of delivery likely to result in full distribution."

 

The court found that the employer's posting failed to satisfy ERISA's disclosure requirements for SPDs and ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

 

Action Steps for Employers. In the wake of Thomas, employers that rely on electronically distributing ERISA disclosures, including SPDs, must be cognizant that failure to comply with DOL rules can be a costly mistake. Accordingly, employers are advised to periodically review their electronic distribution processes to assure that they are adequate and that they are being followed.  

 

   

   

 

 

 

 

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This Newsletter is provided for information purposes by The Wagner Law Group to clients and others who may be interested in the subject matter, and may not be relied upon as specific legal advice.  This material is not to be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. Under the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered advertising.