HUNTINGTON – A lawsuit against DirecTV alleging it has denied life insurance benefits to the father of a former employee has been removed to federal court.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company filed the notice of removal, with DirecTV consenting to the removal of the action, according to the May 11 notice of removal.
The notice of removal states that because the benefit plan in question in the lawsuit is an “employee welfare benefit plan” within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 19874, all state laws are preempted and the lawsuit should be removed to federal court.
Given ERISA’s preemption provisions are deliberately expansive and designed to establish employee benefit plan regulation as exclusively a federal concern, removal is appropriate, according to the removal.
Marilyn Marie Hale was an employee of the DirecTV call center in Huntington and was provided with an employer-sponsored basic life insurance and basic accidental death & dismemberment insurance coverage, according to the complaint, which was originally filed in Wayne Circuit Court
Lloyd Donovan Hale claims the amount of the coverage was one-times his daughter’s annual salary.
Marilyn Marie Hale was terminated from her employment on Oct. 26 and died of an accidental drug overdose on Nov. 15, according to the suit.
Donovan Hale claims beginning in December, he began attempting to determine what benefits to which he and his wife, the sole heirs to their daughter’s estate, may be entitled and first contacted the human resources department at the call center, where they were given the number for AT&T Survivors Benefits, which was administered by Fidelity Investments.
On Jan. 26, Donovan Hale filed a claim for all benefits available from his daughter’s employment with AT&T/DirecTV and was advised that there was life and accidental death & dismemberment insurance available in the matter, according to the suit.
Since Jan. 26, the plaintiff has made numerous phone calls to both AT&T Survivors Benefits and MetLife regarding the payment of the benefits available to him and his wife as the sole heirs of the estate of their deceased daughter, according to the suit.
Donovan Hale claims on March 15, AT&T Survivors Benefits advised him that there was no coverage available in the case and that he needed to deal directly with MetLife.
When the plaintiff contacted MetLIfe, he was advised that no claim had been filed on behalf of his deceased daughter and that they were unable to assist him, according to the suit.
Donovan Hale claims on March 16, he filed a claim with MetLife and, approximately two weeks later, he contacted MetLife for an update on the claim and was advised that MetLife had required and requested additional information from AT&T Survivors Benefits. He contacted AT&T and was told they would get the information to MetLife.
On April 6, the plaintiff was advised again that MetLife was still waiting on the information required from AT&T, according to the suit.
Donovan Hale claims he contacted AT&T again and was informed that AT&T would not provide any additional information to MetLife and that he needed to contact DirecTV for them to provide the requested information.
The plaintiff attempted to contact DirecTV, but the number that was provided by MetLife was no longer in service, according to the suit.
Donovan Hale claims the conduct of the defendants has deprived him the ability to recover benefits owed to him and his wife and he has been provided with no options as to how to appeal any decision made by any defendant in the matter, nor has he even been provided with a denial from any defendant in the case.
The defendants’ conduct should be considered as a constructive denial of both life insurance and accidental death & dismemberment benefits, according to the suit.
Donovan Hale is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by Paul E. Biser of Fredeking, Fredeking & Biser Law Offices. He is a legal assistant at the firm.
MetLife is represented by Matthew O. Gatewood of Eversheds Sutherland.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:17-cv-02883