Lump-Sum Distribution Denial Goes Back to Plan for 2nd Look

April 13, 2007 ( - A federal judge in Illinois has concluded that a pension plan did not adequately consider a participant's argument that he had mailed a form electing a lump-sum payout before the deadline.

The judge, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asserted that the plan’s decision to deny the lump-sum distribution request because it was received too late was unreasonable because the plan did not properly consider the participant’s evidence of when the form was submitted.

The district court judge sent the case back to the plan administrator for a “new and comprehensive” appeal of the claim, directing the plan to consider new evidence produced by the participant about the date the form was mailed and to investigate the plan’s own procedures for receiving, date-stamping, sorting, and distributing mail.

The judge asserted that the plan’s failure to produce the postmarked envelope containing the election form created an inference that the form had come in on time, but had been misplaced, subsequently found, and then stamped with a later date.

The plan administrator denied the claim because, according to the date stamped on the form by plan administrative employees, the document had come in 10 days after the deadline.

In challenging the denial, the participant made two arguments:

  • The plan should have treated the date of mailing as the date the form was filed with the plan (the court called this the “received-upon-mailing” rule); and
  • He had mailed the form sufficiently in advance of the deadline, so that it must have been received by the deadline (the court called this the “presumption-of-receipt” rule).

The case is Kuchar v. AT&T Pension Ben, Plan-Midwest Program (N.D. Ill. 2007).