Gross v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, No. 12-1175 (1st Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Appellant was placed on disability leave from work. Appellant was covered under a long term disability (LTD) policy that her employer obtained from Medical Group Insurance Services (MGIS). The policy was written by Sun Life Assurance Company (Sun Life). After leaving her job, Appellant filed a claim with MGIS seeing long term disability benefits. Sun Life denied Appellant's request for benefits. Appellant filed an action against Sun Life, asserting various state law claims. The federal district court dismissed the action based on ERISA preemption. Appellant then amended her complaint to add ERISA claims and asked the district court to apply de novo review in its evaluation of her ERISA claims. The court denied the motion and granted summary judgment for Sun Life, concluding that Sun Life's decision to deny benefits was not arbitrary and capricious, and thus complied with ERISA's requirements. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment, holding (1) the safe harbor exception to ERISA did not apply to the policy covering Appellant, and therefore, Appellant's state law claims were preempted; but (2) the benefits denial was subject to a de novo review, rather than the highly deferential "arbitrary and capricious" review prescribed for certain ERISA benefits decisions. Remanded.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 14, 2014.