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Disability Insurance Claim

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Eric Zall v. Standard Insurance Company

Case No.: 22-1096

Officials: Hamilton, St. Eve, and Kirsch, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Disability Insurance Claim

Plaintiff-appellant Zall worked more than twenty years as a dentist, but chronic pain and numbness in his neck and right arm made it impossible for him to keep working. In 2013, Zall filed a claim for long-term disability benefits under an insurance policy with defendant-appellee Standard Insurance Company. Standard approved his claim and began paying benefits. Six years later, Standard terminated Zall’s benefits. Standard concluded that Zall’s spinal condition and associated symptoms did not satisfy policy requirements for paying disability benefits for such conditions for more than two years without additional medical findings.

Department of Labor regulations required the administrator of an employee benefit plan to give a claimant, “upon request,” copies of “all documents, records, and other information” that the administrator considered in making an adverse benefit determination. In 2018, the regulations were amended to eliminate “upon request” and require an administrator to provide such information “sufficiently in advance” of an adverse determination “to give the claimant a reasonable opportunity to respond.”

Zall filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001, arguing that the decision was arbitrary and capricious and that Standard violated ERISA’s procedural requirements by failing to afford him “a full and fair review.” The district court granted Standard summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The plain language shows that the amended regulation applies; Standard failed to comply.

Reversed and Remanded.

Decided 01/19/23

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