Connie White waited more than five years to file a lawsuit against MetLife for denial of her disability benefits. The law in Louisiana only provided Ms. White 5 years to file her legal action. The district court dismissed her disability claim and the 5th Circuit court of appeals affirmed the denial. Disability insurance claimants need to take timely action if a claim for disability benefits is denied. Failure to act within strict time lines can result in the inability to pursue a claim in court.
Failing to oppose Metropolitan’s Motion for Summary Judgment, White alleges that her case was decided on the basis of her failure as opposed to the merits of her case. And even though the Court ruled to approve the insurer’s motion, White was given a second chance to file her opposition. White had 10 days to file an opposing position to the original motion for summary judgment. Never filing anything acknowledging the motion, White, after the fact, claimed that the Court erred in its decision to uphold Metropolitan’s decision to deny her long-term disability benefits.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Agrees to Review White’s Case
As a result of her claim, the District Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit agreed to review the District Courts Summary Judgment de novo. White contended that the Court entered its ruling "solely because Metropolitan’s motion was unopposed." And while the Court disputed this contention, it claimed that it granted the insurer’s motion based on the evidence presented in Metropolitan’s summary judgment motion.
The Fifth Circuit ruled that "the district court’s ruling was correct on the merits." According to the terms of White’s insurance plan, legal action cannot be filed "more than three years after proof of Disability," unless "the area where you live allows a longer period of time to file proof of Disability." In White’s case, she let that time period expire. Consequently, her challenge to Metropolitan’s benefit denial "was filed too late."
Finding of the Fifth Circuit Court in Connie D. White v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
The Circuit Court pointed out that since ERISA doesn’t set a specific limitation period, state law applies. In Ms. White’s case the law in Louisiana allows 5 years for a lawsuit to be filed. Unable to present a case that proves that Metropolitan did not materially misrepresent itself or its decision to deny White disability benefits or that "extraordinary circumstances" existed, White did not prevail in her appeal. Consequently, the Fifth Circuit Court allowed the District Court’s ruling in White to stand. The lesson here is that timely filing of disability lawsuits and answers are imperative to a disability claimant’s lawsuit being favourably ruled upon.
About the author: Gregory Michael Dell is an attorney and managing partner of the disability income division of Attorneys Dell & Schaefer. Mr. Dell and his team of lawyers have assisted thousands of long-term disability claimants with their claims against every major disability insurance company. To request a free legal consultation call 800-698-9162.