A question plaguing many Chicagoans covered under an employer’s long term disability insurance plan is exactly how long they have to file a lawsuit after the insurer denies their disability claim or miscalculates benefits. The fact that so many people have this question is a testament to how little disability insurers disclose about the deadline to file a lawsuit. Most commonly, the long-term disability insurance plans and policies provide 3 years from the time proof of claim or proof of loss is due to the insurer. That deadline is itself complexly calculated in the policies. But what if the employer and insurer never disclosed this plan term to you? How can you meet a deadline you do not know exists? That issue arose recently on the East Coast.
In Landry v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 19 C 3385, 2021 WL 848455 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 5, 2021), Landry filed his lawsuit under ERISA 502(a) for long-term disability insurance benefits after MetLife approved the claim, but undercalculated the benefits. MetLife moved to dismiss the claim, arguing that the plan requires a lawsuit be filed within 3 years after proof of claim was due, and Landry did not meet that deadline. However, that deadline was never disclosed to Landry. It was not in the Plan’s Summary Plan Description, and in none of the letters to Landry. The court held that it had the authority to not enforce a plan term that was not disclosed to Landry, and allowed the case to move forward despite being untimely under the plan’s terms.
The takeaway from Landry’s case is that the time to file a lawsuit can be quite limited. In at least some circumstances, untimely lawsuits can proceed where there was inadequate communication of that deadline. However, the best course of action is to not take any chances. If you received an adverse decision from a long-term disability insurer, denying your claim or underpaying it, waste no time in contacting a skilled long-term disability lawyer. You never know when it might be too late.