Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado recently found in favor of an ERISA long-term disability claimant’s right to conduct discovery. This order can be found in Almedia v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, No. 09-cv-01556-ZLW-KLM, 2010 WL 743520 (D.Colo. March 2, 2010). In reaching the conclusion that discovery is permitted in ERISA governed LTD case, Judge Mix cited to and partially relied upon a decision in prior case handled by this office, Kohut v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company.
Similar to the issues this office had pursued in the past, the Plaintiff in Almedia sought discovery concerning the scope of the conflict between Hartford Insurance and the third party independent medical reviewers and professionals it utilizes to deny claims. Plaintiff also sought information concerning potential improper incentives paid to Hartford employees who rendered claim decisions, information concerning Hartford’s claims manuals, training and claims guidelines and statistical data relating to claims administration.
We applaud Judge Mix for recognizing the importance of discovery in ERISA governed claims and allowing Plaintiff Almedia to pursue evidence outside of the insurance company’s claim file. This office is hopeful the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will eventually address this issue once and for all, and decide that discovery is most definitely allowed in all ERISA governed claims. Such a decision will speed up the litigation process by several months which is now spent fighting over the right to conduct discovery.