Much has been written about the challenges that exist for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) plan fiduciaries related to their investment of plan assets or review of plan administration fees related to those investments, and those challenges will continue for the foreseeable future given recent decisions of the Supreme Court in Dudenhoeffer and Tibble. However, before any litigation typically commences under ERISA, a claimant must exhaust their administrative claims review remedies under ERISA and the applicable benefit plan. In reviewing benefit claims, an ERISA plan administrator or their delegate must reasonably and timely jump through many hoops to decide benefit claims and notify the claimant of a benefit determination. If a plan administrator fails to clear any of these hoops (or just forgets to jump through them), the plan and the plan administrator can incur liabilities or waive defenses typically available in defending the claims in litigation.
This article, which was originally published by Bloomberg BNA’s Pension Benefits Daily, analyzes court cases that discuss how plan administrators should properly decide and administer ERISA benefit claims and what liability should attach to poor claims administration. Based on this case review, this article then suggests best practices to avoid mishandling the ERISA claims review process.