Don’t forget that ….
judicial estoppel can require dismissal of a claimant’s suit for ERISA-governed long term disability (LTD) benefits if the claimant failed to list the “potential cause of action” in bankruptcy filings.
The key is to determine when the “potential cause of action” accrued. And a recent case says those claims “accrue” when the claimant receives the initial benefit denial letter.
Here’s the case of Byrd v. Wellpoint Flexible Benefit Plan and Anthem Life Insurance Co., 2017 WL 1633204 (E.D. Missouri May 2, 2017).
FACTS: Byrd worked for Anthem, and sued after her claim for ERISA-governed long term disability benefits was denied. Wellpoint and Anthem moved to dismiss the suit contending Byrd’s LTD claim had not been disclosed during her bankruptcy proceeding and was therefore barred by the equitable doctrine of judicial estoppel.
ISSUE: Whether Judicial Estoppel Barred Byrd’s LTD Claim Because She Failed to List the Potential Claim as an Asset in her Bankruptcy?
DISTRICT COURT HELD: No, because the LTD claim “accrued” after she filed for bankruptcy and therefore was a “post-petition asset.”
- When filing for bankruptcy, “all assets of the debtor, including potential causes of action, become assets of the bankruptcy estate.” Op. at 4.
- “[A] party ‘may be judicially estopped from asserting a cause of action not raised in a reorganization plan or otherwise mentioned in the debtor’s schedules or disclosure statements. A debtor’s failure to list a claim in the mandatory bankruptcy filings is tantamount to a representation that no such claim existed.’” Op. at 5.
- Plaintiff’s ERISA claim accrued when she received Anthem’s September 21, 2016 letter initially denying her application for LTD benefits. This took place more than three months after Byrd filed her bankruptcy petition, and two months after she filed her bankruptcy disclosures. Op. at 6.
- The Court denied the Motion to Dismiss, concluding the ERISA lawsuit “accrued” after her bankruptcy petition and was therefore a “post-petition asset of Plaintiff and not part of the [bankruptcy] estate.” Op at 7.