Woman Loses 2nd Court Battle of Husband's Life Insurance

April 12, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling denying a woman's efforts to collect on her dead husband's life insurance because the husband was never properly registered for the insurance benefit.

>The US 2 nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that US District Judge Jed Rakoff of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York rightfully turned aside the lawsuit by plaintiff Betsy Weinreb against the Hospital for Joint Diseases Orthopedic Institute – Dr. Herman Weiner’s former employer.

>Rakoff had ruled – and the appeals judges agreed – that Betsy Weinreb has no claim to the funds because her husband had never turned in the proper registration form. Despite the fact that the hospital never gave the husband the required summary plan description (SPD), he knew about the registration nevertheless, the ruling said.

>According to  the appeals ruling , written for the court by Chief Judge John Walker, Jr., Dr. Weinreb joined the hospital in April 1998 as the chief of its Neurology Department and filled out a packet of benefit registration forms, but never completed the form required by the hospital’s life insurance provider, Mass Mutual “despite repeated reminders.”

>Dr. Weinreb resigned from the hospital in December 1999 and died unexpectedly about four months later. Betsy Weinreb was informed that her husband did not have life insurance coverage through the hospital and she filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

“In sum,” Walker wrote, “we agree with (Rakoff) that the several attempts that the hospital made to secure Dr. Weiner’s completion of the enrollment form provided actual notice of the condition precedent at issue.”