In Reindl v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co., –F.3d __, 2013 WL 425356 ( 8th Cir. February 5, 2013), the 8th Circuit clearly stated that when appealing an ERISA decision – the appeal must be clear. In this case, the question was: Can a mere request for medical records, and a reference to an “appeal in the future tense,” trigger the appeal? The 8th Circuit held no.
Here, the participant sought and obtained disability benefits. Hartford later reassessed the claim of the participant and discontinued the benefits. On November 25, 2008, Hartford sent a letter informing the participant that she had 180 days to file an administrative appeal.
On December 12, 2008, the participant’s lawyer sent a letter requesting medical records and stating, “We will be reviewing the records and obtaining additional medical information for my client’s appeal of the decision to terminate [benefits].” (emphasis added).
On July 8, 2009 the participant’s attorney expressed disagreement with the benefits termination decision and stated: “I would appreciate your reversal of the decision to terminate [Reindl’s benefit claim].”
The trial court held that the participant failed to file a timely appeal. The 8th Circuit affirmed. The 8th Circuit court reasoned that the December letter merely requested medical records. The reference to a future appeal was not an actual appeal.