Louisiana Record

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Time-barred complaint denies former Quality Energy employee disability benefits

By Angela Underwood | Dec 23, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a former employee’s disability claims are in fact time-barred.

In a Dec. 14 appeal, Circuit Judges James Dennis, Hunter King and Gregg Costa agreed that Todd M. Babin's appeal against Quality Energy Services Inc. was time barred based on the one-year period for a tort claim.

Babin was an employee with Quality Energy until he became disabled due to carpal tunnel syndrome in 2012, when he applied for short-term disability benefits. He was denied those benefits in 2013 after having several surgeries. Babin requested short- and long-term disability plan coverage, which were denied by Quality Energy’s disability insurer Standard Insurance Company because they never received a necessary form from Quality Energy.

Babin believed when he applied for short-term disability it covered six months of benefits; however, the former employee only received three months of benefits. He claims if he understood the correct terms he would have applied for long-term benefits to begin with and Quality Energy’s failure to provide the necessary form caused him to miss the window of opportunity to do so.

Citing Ayers v. Davidson  1960 and Federal Practice and Procedure 2016, “summary judgment is appropriate where the undisputed facts demonstrate that a claim is time-barred,” according to the appeal.  

“The parties do not dispute that Babin requested documents on February 5, 2014, and began this lawsuit on October 12, 2015,” according to the appeal. “Rather, the parties dispute which prescriptive period applies to Babin’s claim and whether that period should be tolled.”

In 2015, Babin filed a complaint against his former employer, arguing damages under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 for both failure to recompense benefits and produce coverage documents. Though the parties did settle on the failure-to-pay-benefits claim, Quality Energy filed for summary judgment regarding the failure to produce coverage plans.  

According to the district court, Babin’s 2014 claim was in fact time-barred and granted Quality Energy summary judgment, to which Babin argues is not the case under Louisiana’s 10-year prescriptive period for personal actions. Louisiana law states that the prescriptive period for delictual claims is one year and prescriptive period for contract claims is 10 years; and “Louisiana courts will treat an action as delictual unless a plaintiff alleges the violation of a specific contractual provision,” according to the appeal.

Based on Louisiana law,  Babin’s claim “alleges the breach of a general statutory duty, rather than a specific contractual provision, and it does not require deliberate misconduct on the part of the plan administrator,” according to the appeal. “Therefore, a claim better resembles a delictual claim subject to a one-year prescriptive period under Louisiana law than a personal action subject to a 10-year prescriptive period.”

According to precedent cases and Louisiana law, Babin’s claim prescribed 365 days after it accrued, according to the Fifth District Court of Appeal.

“We hold that the one-year prescriptive period applies and decline to entertain Babin’s tolling argument,” according to the appeal.

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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals