The U.S. Supreme Court could hear oral arguments concerning a group benefits administration case April 23.
The court has scheduled arguments on the case, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company et al. petitioners vs. Wanda Glenn, for that date.
The court has received briefs about the case from many insurance groups, employer groups and consumer groups, including America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington; the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington; the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.; and the American Benefits Council, Washington.
The court also has received a brief from the office of the U.S. Solicitor General and given the representatives from the office, which represents the federal government, permission to speak during oral arguments in support of the respondent in the case, Wanda Glenn.
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Glenn worked at a retail store in Ohio for 14 years. In 2000, she filed a claim for group disability benefits with a plan insured and administered by a unit of MetLife Inc., New York. Glenn told the plan she had developed a heart condition.
The plan paid short-term disability benefits, but MetLife later rejected Glenn’s request for long-term disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration awarded Glenn Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
Glenn sued MetLife in federal court, arguing that it had abused the discretion it had to make benefits determinations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
The U.S. District Court in Cincinnati declined to overturn MetLife’s decision, but a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower-court ruling.
MetLife appealed and asked the Supreme Court to resolve differences between the ways different circuit appeals courts have handled the ERISA discretion issue.
The Supreme Court case now centers around two questions:
1. Whether the 6th Circuit erred in holding, in conflict with 2 other circuits, that the fact that a claim administrator of an ERISA plan also funds the plan benefits, without more, constitutes a “conflict of interest” which must be weighed in a judicial review of the administrator’s benefit determination …?