What happens when the district court orders a remand to the ERISA plan administrator? 

Can you appeal it?  It depends on the circuit.

Here’s the case of Mead v. Reliastar Life Insurance Company, __ F.3d __ (2nd Cir. September 16, 2014) (Remand in this case was not a final order from which an appeal may be brought).

FACTS: Mead sought ERISA-governed long term disability benefits, which were denied by claims administrator Reliastar. After she filed suit, the district court remanded to Reliastar to calculate the amount of benefits owed.  Reliastar appealed, but Mead argued the remand was not a “final decision” from which an appeal can be taken.

ISSUE: Whether an order remanding the claim to the ERISA administrator constitutes a “final decision” from which an appeal may be taken?

2nd Circuit HELD:  NO.  Appeal Dismissed—Remand decisions are not “immediately appealable.”

  1. “[S]ister circuits are split on the issue….[T]he First, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Eleventh circuits hold that because an ERISA remand order contemplates further proceedings before the plan administrator, it is not ‘final’ and therefore may not be immediately appealed except when the familiar collateral order doctrine applies.”  Op. at 7.
  2. “[T]he Third, Ninth and Tenth [circuits]…permit immediate appeals in certain circumstances.”  “[T]he Seventh Circuit… also permits immediate appeals in certain situations.”  Op. at 8.
  3. “Taking into consideration our prior case law and the various analytical approaches used by our sister circuits, we now hold that remands to ERISA plan administrators are not ‘final’ because in the ordinary case, they contemplate further proceedings by the plan administrator.”  Op. at 10.
  4. “We decline, however, to adopt a hard and fast rule that such orders are never immediately appealable[.]“  Op. at 10.
  5. “[A]fter a determination by the plan administrator on remand, either party may seek to reopen the district court proceedings and obtain a final judgment.”  Op. at 11.