New Discovery Rules Established In The 10th Circuit

The ERISA Law Center represented Aileen Murphy in her long term disability claim against MetLife. Ms. Murphy worked as a Tax Firm Director for Deloitte & Touche, a position which entailed travel, significant interaction and coordination with others, negotiations with the IRS, and advising clients in complex tax matters. She became disabled by co-morbid conditions: a psychiatric condition and a pain condition as a result of severe back problem. The combination of her conditions together with her medications caused fatigue, balance and vision problems, memory and cognitive problems, as well as chronic pain. Her claim for long term disability benefits was denied. She submitted her own appeal, which was also denied. We filed suit on her behalf in district court and propounded discovery regarding MetLife relationship with the doctors who provided reports for MetLife and Ms. Murphy's claim.

The district court denied the discovery and then ruled against Ms. Murphy.

We appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal held that the district court incorrectly denied our right to discovery regarding MetLife's conflict of interest and ordered that we be allowed to be conduct limited discovery, appropriately circumscribed, to allow us to present evidence on the seriousness of MetLife's conflict of interest and the likelihood it jeopardized MetLife's decision-making process in Ms. Murphy's case.

On remand from the Tenth Circuit the case settled. As a result of the Tenth Circuit's opinion in Murphy v. Deloitte & Touche, other jurisdictions have developed similar rules regarding discovery, enabling claimants throughout the United States to exercise an important right in ERISA litigation: the right to discovery the basis of the Plan's or Insurance Company's bias against granted legitimate claims.

Insurance companies which both administer the plan and pay claims have an inherent conflict of interest. They are supposed to be the fiduciary acting in the best interests of the claimant but, in fact, they protect their own bottom line. It's important that claimants have the opportunity to conduct discovery to explore the nature, extent and implication of the conflict of interest. Read the Court's Opinion.

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