ERISA Preemption

In Dye v. Hartford Life & Accident Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 47974 (M.D.GA. April 8, 2014), the plaintiff brought claims in state court for breach of contract, bad faith, etc., based on the denial of long term disability benefits by the Hartford.  Hartford removed the case to federal court and then filed a Motion to Dismiss based on ERISA preemption.  The facts in this case are unusual, and it seems quite likely the whole story is not in the record.  For example, the plaintiff’s claim was denied in 2006, but the lawsuit wasn’t filed until 2013.  After the case was removed to federal court, the plaintiff did not amend the complaint or move to remand the case to state court.  In fact, the plaintiff did not file an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss.  The District Court ultimately concluded that all of the plaintiff’s claims were preempted by federal law, and that because the lawsuit was based on state law, the case was dismissed.

The Court concludes all of the Plaintiff’s claims are preempted by ERISA. The ultimate inquiry is whether the Plaintiff must bring her claims pursuant to ERISA or not at all. Here, the Plaintiff has chosen to limit her complaint to state law claims, despite the Defendant’s removal to federal court based on ERISA preemption. Her counsel has not contested removal nor sought to amend the complaint. Thus, the claims must be dismissed.

Private Long Term Disability Policy

If you have a private long term disability policy, or a similar type of contract that pays benefits while you are unable to work, state law may assist you in your claim.  For example, in Georgia, a policy is to be construed liberally in favor of coverage.  Barrett v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pitt., 304 Ga.App. 314 (2010).  If you have an insurance policy and you live in Georgia, contact our office if you are not receiving benefits you feel you are entitled to receive. We may be able to help.