Court Finds Verbal Agreement Satisfied COBRA Notice

August 25, 2014 ( – A verbal exchange between a terminated employee and her former employer has been found by a federal court to satisfy COBRA notification requirements.

Elisa Madonia, a former employee of S 37 Management Inc., contends the company never gave her the notice about how to continue health coverage required by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). At the time Madonia was terminated, she was told she would only continue to have medical coverage “if a check for the premium was immediately tendered,” so she gave the company a check. 

The court first noted that one of the qualifying events that triggers the need to give a COBRA notice is termination of employment leading to loss of insurance coverage. If there is no loss of coverage, then there is no triggering event, U.S. District Court Judge Harry D. Leinenweber of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said in his opinion. 

In addition, Leinenweber found the statute does not specify the form the notice must take, so the verbal notice was adequate. He also pointed out that since Madonia continued as a covered person, the policy covered her for her medical expenses, so she does not have any damages, such as uncovered medical bills, which she would have incurred if she had not been allowed to obtain continuous coverage. 

Madonia’s claim for a COBRA violation was dismissed. 

The case also alleges Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations and makes a charge of “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Madonia, a customer service representative, suffered from Stage III esophageal cancer while working for S 37 Management. She requested as a reasonable accommodation to her condition that she be allowed to work a four-day week while she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Defendants refused to accommodate her request and terminated her. 

The opinion in Madonia v. S 37 Management Inc. is here.