Employees in Chicago with life insurance coverage and other benefits through their employers often receive benefits related communications electronically. Increasingly, employers use secure inboxes, or encrypted email messages, to communicate about benefits. The benefits of secure messaging is greater protection from anybody accessing the communications, especially hackers. The downside is it adds an extra step to retrieve the message, requiring a login and password distinct from your regular employer-based email system. It may even require two-factor authentication. But you should check this inbox when you receive a notification because it may contain key information regarding protecting your benefits or your beneficiaries’ interests.
In Colone v. Securian Life Insurance Co., No. 1:20-cv-18354, 2023 WL2063337 (D.N.J. Feb. 17, 2023), Mr. Colone worked for E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., now doing business as Corteva Agriscience. While employed, Corteva sent Mr. Colone messages to his secure participant inbox advising him his life insurance coverage would lapse for failure to pay premiums. The coverage in fact lapsed. After Mr. Colone passed away, Ms. Colone made a claim for the life insurance benefits, which the insurer and employer denied due to the coverage lapsing. Ms. Colone appealed, to no avail. She then sued under ERISA § 502(a).
The district court ruled in favor of the insurer and employer on summary judgment. The employer produced evidence it sent notice of the upcoming lapse to Mr. Colone’s secure participant inbox. Ms. Colone failed to rebut this evidence. Thus, she did not create any genuine issue of material fact that the employer advised Mr. Colone his coverage would lapse for failure to pay premiums. This required the court to enter summary judgment in favor of the insurer and employer, leaving Ms. Colone with no recourse.
If you have life insurance coverage through your employer, and receive any kind of notice regarding your benefits, consult with an experienced ERISA life insurance lawyer to learn how to protect your rights as a participant.