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Frank Alberigo v. the Hartford

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


May 18, 2011

FRANK ALBERIGO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE HARTFORD, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Orenstein, Magistrate Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In a letter-motion dated April 27, 2011, plaintiff Frank Alberigo ("Alberigo") seeks discovery of information outside the underlying administrative record. Specifically, Alberigo seeks to depose Dr. Nneka Onwubueke ("Onwubueke"), the doctor on whose opinion defendant The Hartford ("Hartford") relied in denying Alberigo disability benefits. Docket Entry ("DE") 10 (Motion). Hartford opposes the motion on the grounds that in cases such as this, involving review of a denial of benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.SC. § 1001, et seq., courts are restricted to review of the underlying administrative record. DE 11 ("Reply" in Opposition). For the reasons set forth below, I deny Alberigo's motion.

The benefit plan at issue gives Hartford "discretionary authority" to determine benefits. As a result, the court's review of a denial of benefits is under the "arbitrary and capricious" standard. Krauss v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 517 F. 3d 614, 622 (2d Cir. 2008). Under this deferential standard of review, courts are generally restricted to reviewing the administrative record. Trussel v. Cigna Life Ins. of NY, 552 F. Supp. 2d 387, 390 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (citing Miller v. United Welfare Fund, 72 F.3d 1066, 1070 (2d Cir.1995) (citations omitted)).

Citing Trussel, Alberigo argues that courts have discretionary authority to admit evidence outside the administrative record on a showing of good cause. Motion, at 1-2. However, Trussel concerns an exception to the general rule restricting review to the administrative record for cases in which there is a "conflict of interest." 552 F. Supp. 2d at 390. Here, Alberigo does not allege any such conflict of interest and his claim appears to relate solely to the reasonableness of the plan administrator's decision. See generally DE 1 (Complaint). Moreover, because the circumstances of this case do not fall within the conflict of interest exception, it is not necessary to address whether or not Alberigo has either shown good cause for the requested discovery, or that there is a "reasonable chance that the requested discovery will satisfy the good cause requirement." Trussel, 552 F. Supp. 2d at 390-91; Motion at 1-2.*fn1

For the reasons set forth above, I deny plaintiff's motion for additional discovery beyond the administrative record. As a result, discovery is closed. Pursuant to the parties' previously proposed schedule, DE 5, I direct any party that wishes to submit a motion for summary judgment to file a request for a pre-motion conference before the presiding district judge no later than June 10, 2011.

SO ORDERED. Dated: Brooklyn, New York

JAMES ORENSTEIN U.S. Magistrate Judge


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