Nolan v. Heald College: Newsletter


A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit may make it more difficult for defendants to obtain summary judgment in ERISA cases. Nolan v. Heald College, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 581 (9th Cir. Jan 13. 2009). In Nolan, the Ninth Circuit concluded that district courts examining evidence outside of the administrative record in ERISA cases must apply the traditional rules of summary judgment—including the requirement that evidence be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

Nolan was insured under a MetLife long-term disability policy that was part of her employer’s ERISA-governed employee benefit plan. The plan granted MetLife broad discretion to both interpret relevant plan provisions and to determine eligibility for benefits. Nolan obtained long term disability benefits following an injury at work. After two years of payments, MetLife reevaluated Nolan’s claim and found that she was not eligible to continue receiving benefits under the plan. Nolan unsuccessfully appealed MetLife’s denial twice. In both appeals, MetLife submitted her file to separate independent physicians, who found that Nolan’s injuries did not render her totally disabled under the terms of the plan. Nolan then filed suit.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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