Unum Wins Summary Judgment on Accidental Death Claim

Unum Wins Summary Judgment on Accidental Death Claim
(June 2010)

On June 8, 2010, Lauren A. Welch prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on behalf of Unum Life Insurance Company of America (“Unum”) in an ERISA suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Plaintiffs, beneficiaries of decedent Timothy D. Letter, were seeking in excess of $200,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) benefits under an Employee Life Insurance Plan owned by Pepsi Americas, Inc. and administered by Unum. Prior to his death, Mr. Letter had been declared disabled and was receiving disability benefits under a separate employee benefit plan. In addition to disability benefits, this plan provided that a disabled employee was entitled to have his life insurance premiums waived. Plaintiffs argued that the waiver should have also included the premiums necessary to continue his AD&D coverage. Unum disagreed on the grounds that the AD&D coverage was separate and distinct from the standard life insurance. Furthermore, the terms of the policy did not provide for an AD&D waiver of premium. Judge Carl J. Barbier came down squarely on the side of the insurer noting that “the Life Insurance and the AD&D benefits contain separate and distinct sections relating to eligibility, coverage and payment amounts…. Therefore, it is unclear to the court how Letter to have believed that the clause applied to both the Life insurance and the AD&D provision.” Accordingly, plaintiffs’ case was dismissed with prejudice.