I previously blogged about the 10th Circuit’s decision in Murphy v. DeLoite & Touche and the permissible scope of discovery in claims governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). (Click here for prior post.) Although many of our local judges in the federal court in Colorado previously allowed at least some discovery sought on behalf of our clients, the gate has clearly been pushed further open. More recently, this office received favorable orders in Erickson v. Lincoln National and Bottoms v. Liberty Life. The decision issued by Magistrate Judge Shaffer in the Bottoms case has been published by Westlaw at 2011WL6181423.
In this case, Liberty Life argued that Plaintiff was not entitled to conduct discovery. Plaintiff’s discovery request sought information concerning the insurance company’s conflict of interest in rendering ERISA claim decisions, information concerning bias of the reviewing physicians retained by Liberty Life to perform a paper review of Plaintiff’s medical records, the incentive pay plans of Liberty Life employees who rendered the claim decision, and related information. Ultimately, the judge concluded Plaintiff was entitled to obtain much of this information from the insurance company.
Finally, after years of pushing this Issue, which required extensive briefing and attendance at numerous hearings, our clients’ rights to seek discovery under our federal rules of civil procedure on behalf of our clients is becoming more and more clear. Such discovery “battles” should be far less contentious in the future. Disability insurance carriers (such as Unum, Hartford, MetLife, Liberty Life, CIGNA, Sun Life, Prudential, Standard, and the others) will be required to produce information which should have always been readily available to Plaintiffs whose benefits have been denied under this biased and tainted method employed by disability carriers in rendering decisions. Judge Shaffer made it clear at the hearing and in his written decision that the days of insurance companies opposing all forms of discovery in these types of cases are over.