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Phil Tatlow represented another Anheuser Busch Brewer who became disabled while working for the company. His client, G.S., worked with D.H. and R.B. as a beer brewer in St. Louis. The cases of D.H. and R.B. are discussed in separate articles on this site.  G.S. became unable to work after suffering spinal stenosis along with severe arthritis to both of his knees. He experienced trouble with lifting, bending, stooping, crawling and climbing. As a beer brewer he was required to crawl, climb, lift, scrub and clean machinery and equipment.  Because he was suffering severe pain with these activities, G.S. retired and filed for Social Security disability benefits, which were paid. At this time, he did not know that he had a life insurance policy with Anheuser Busch that had a disability buy-out clause when he retired. He did not know that the life insurance policy had a provision that required Anheuser Busch or the insurance company to buy-out the amount of his life insurance benefits if he became permanently and totally disabled while working as a brewer. The definition of Permanent and Total disability fell under Federal ERISA case law as it was an employee benefit plan, so Social Security and state law did not apply.
Over ten years after he retired, G.S. contacted Mr. Tatlow to discuss his claim. Mr. Tatlow submitted the life insurance buy-out claim and argued that Anheuser Busch and Great West Insurance Company had breached its’ fiduciary duty to G.S. and that because of this, the three-year limitation to make such a claim, under the contract did not apply. Initially, Anheuser Busch and Great West refused to consider the claim arguing they met all obligations to G.S. After Mr. Tatlow represented 3 or 4 more workers with the same claims against Anheuser Busch and Great West, he filed complaints against Great West with the Department of Insurance for violating state insurance regulations. Eventually, Great West Insurance Company agreed to review the claim of G.S. and waive the three-year time period to make a claim. After receipt of Mr. G.S’s medical records and medical consultant’s reports, Great West agreed that G.S. was permanently and totally disabled and paid him the policy limits of his life insurance policy.

This case is significant because it represents the principal that a plan administrator and insurance company owe the plan participants a fiduciary duty and a duty of loyalty. A fiduciary and plan administrator cannot withhold valuable information from the plan participants and hold the participants to strict time periods and requirement of the plan if it has concealed the time limits to apply for the benefits or has withheld information on how to apply for the benefits or if it has withheld the existence of the plan itself from the plan participants/workers.

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