Wrong Address Causes COBRA Notice Failure

December 2, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The US District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled that an employer failed to meet its COBRA notice obligation when the notice was sent to an incorrect address.

EBIA reports that after the plaintiff in Amin v. Flagstone Hospitality Mgmt. was fired he sued the employer for failure to provide a COBRA election notice, along with other claims.   The employer argued that a notice had been mailed, and offered evidence that a human resources employee had prepared a COBRA notice after the employee’s termination, addressed an envelope using the employee’s last known address on the notice.

The address on the envelope however, did not include ‘North’ in the street name, which the employee showed was included in the correct address, according to EBIA.   The court noted that mailing an election notice to a terminated employee’s last known address would satisfy an employer’s notice obligation, but it found evidence of the mailing to be insufficient because of the faulty address.

The court disagreed with the employer’s argument that a letter sent to an incorrect address would have been returned to the employer, saying it was just as likely that it had been thrown away by the person who received it.

The court also declined to follow another case, in which an employer’s failure to use “Northeast” in an address had been excused, since the employee in that case had provided the wrong address and had received mail sent by the employer to that address.   Flagstone did not explain why ‘North’ was not included on the address nor provide any evidence that the employee had received mail sent to that address.