Skip to content Carberry v. MetLife - Court Allows Limited Discovery In ERISA Disability Benefits Case Under Glenn Interpretation


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May 2010

Carberry v. MetLife - Court Allows Limited Discovery In ERISA Disability Benefits Case Under Glenn Interpretation

Claimant Can Inquire as to the Importance or Seriousness of an Administrator's Conflict of Interest

2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46651 (D. Colo. April 9, 2010)

The United States District Court for the District of Colorado recently allowed a plaintiff asserting a claim for wrongful denial of long-term disability benefits to pursue discovery to address "the importance or seriousness" of the claim administrator's conflict of interest.  The plaintiff sought leave to conduct limited written discovery concerning the conflict of interest based upon MetLife's dual role as insurer and claims administrator.  In particular, the plaintiff sought to serve interrogatories and production requests probing into any financial incentives which may have influenced MetLife's employees and outside medical professionals who reviewed the claim and/or participated in the coverage decision.

The Colorado District Court reviewed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. Glenn, ___ U.S. ___, 128 S.Ct. 2343 (2008), in determining whether such discovery was permitted.  The District Court found that although the Supreme Court's decision in Glenn resolved the issue of the standard of review to be applied in administrator conflict cases, it created uncertainty about whether courts should allow discovery to probe the importance or seriousness of the conflict.  It noted that while the conflict of interest issue is specifically identified in Glenn as being of "great" or "vanishing" importance depending on the circumstances, it could be impossible to evaluate those circumstances without extra record information.

Based upon this analysis, the District Court determined that written discovery regarding the annual compensation received from the administrator by each reviewing doctor and the number of cases referred to them was relevant to the conflict issue and could not be determined from a particular administrative record.

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This opinion may be cited as precedent.  The result in this case could change, however, based upon any appeal or other subsequent rulings affecting the decision. 

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Franz Hardy