The Ninth Circuit recently held that where an ERISA plan provides the plan administrator discretionary authority to determine benefit claims, procedural violations that occur during the course of the administrative claims process “do not alter the standard of review unless those violations are so flagrant as to alter the substantive relationship between the employer and employee, thereby causing the beneficiary substantive harm.” Here, Plaintiff John Nasi alleged that the district court erroneously reviewed the administrator’s denial of benefits under an abuse of discretion standard. According to Nasi, the district court should have reviewed the claim de novo because the plan committed procedural violations by not timely resolving his claim. Affirming summary judgment in favor of the plan, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the delay was not a flagrant procedural violation, particularly when taking into account that Nasi’s untimeliness in producing documents and releasing records caused much of the delay. The case is Viad Corp. Supplemental Pension Plan v. Nasi, No. 2014 WL 6984443 (9th Cir. Dec. 11, 2014).
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