Jackson et al v. Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati Long Term Disability Plan et al

Filing 30

ORDER by Judge Jeffrey S. White GRANTING 24 Motion to Establish De Novo Standard of Review. (jswlc3, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/24/2008)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA PAMELA JACKSON and E. LYNN SCHOENMANN, Plaintiffs, v. WILSON, SONSINI, GOODRICH & ROSATI LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendants. / No. C 08-01607 JSW United States District Court 11 For the Northern District of California 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO ESTABLISH DE NOVO STANDARD OF REVIEW Now before the Court is plaintiffs Pamela Jackson and E. Lynn Schoenmann's (collectively "Plaintiffs") motion to establish de novo standard of adjudication. The Court finds the motion suitable for resolution without oral argument and the hearing set for January 16, 2009 is HEREBY VACATED. See N.D. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). This action arises from the denial of Plaintiffs' claim for benefits under the Long Term Disability Plan ("the Plan") through Prudential Insurance Company of American ("Prudential") provided by Ms. Jackson's employer, Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati LLP. Plaintiff brought this action to challenge the termination of her claim for disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B). Plaintiffs bring this motion to determine the appropriate standard of review for this Court to adjudicate the termination of benefits. ERISA allows a participant in an employee benefit scheme to bring a civil action to recover benefits due under the terms of a plan. Id. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Courts review a denial of benefits challenged under 1132(a)(1)(B) "under a de novo standard unless the benefit plan gives the administrator or fiduciary discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits or to construe the terms of the plan." Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, 489 U.S. 101, 115 (1989). Here, there is no dispute that the Plan confers no discretion on Prudential, the insurer, or on anyone else. Because there is no discretion vested in anyone in the Plan documents, ERISA defaults to a de novo standard of review. See Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, __ U.S. __, 128 S. Ct. 2343, 2348 (2008); Kearney v. Standard Ins. Co., 175 F.3d 1084, 1089 (9th Cir. 1999) (holding that absent a discretionary clause, the default standard of review of a claims determination in an ERISA policy is de novo). Prudential stipulated to the de novo standard of review in this case, but raises the specter of whether Plaintiffs may seek discovery. The Court finds that the issue of discovery is not properly before the Court at this time and therefore does not adjudicate the issue. United States District Court 11 For the Northern District of California 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: November 24, 2008 JEFFREY S. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 2

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