Notice sent to employee’s old address satisfied COBRA requirements

A COBRA notice sent to a former employee’s old address satisfied the requirements of ERISA Sec. 606 because the old address was the only one, at the time, that the former employer had on file, according to the U.S. District Court for the District of Ohio (DC-OH). The former employee’s COBRA claim was dismissed by the court, along with his claims for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.

Car accident.

While David Foruria (Foruria) worked for Centerline Drivers, LLC (Centerline) as a commercial truck driver he was placed on assignment with BCT, Inc. (BCT), as a Class A truck driver. During his employment, both he and his wife had health coverage through a plan provided by Centerline. On August 14, 2015, Foruria was in a car accident unrelated to his employment, and, at his November 5, 2015 hearing, he admitted guilt, paid a fine, and planned to attend a class to remove points against his driving record. He notified BCT’s safety director of this development on the same day.

Eye injury.

On November 10, 2015, when Foruria strained to loosen a strap from a load of lumber he was delivering, his left eye bulged out of its socket. After seeing a retina specialist, he informed both his supervisor at BCT and Centerline’s senor operations manager that he intended to take FMLA leave for surgery, and to apply for worker’s compensation benefits, starting December 3, 2015.
While Foruria was on leave, on December 10, 2015, both BCT and Centerline terminated his employment. Foruria and his wife lost their health coverage on December 31, 2015.

Vehicle report.

According to Centerline, it ran a Motor Vehicle Report on Foruria, in response to a prompt in its software, and Foruria’s traffic conviction from November 2015 showed up, along with a speeding citation. Because his record showed a major violation, Centerline determined that Foruria was no longer qualified to be a driver. Similarly, BCT decided that Foruria no longer met its safe driver standards because he now had 11 points for violations on his driving record.
Foruria filed suit in district court, and Centerline, BCT, and the plan administrator filed motions for summary judgment, with Centerline arguing, among other things, that there had been no failure to notify Foruria of his COBRA rights, because it had sent notices to him and to his wife twice. The Forurias responded that, because Centerline had sent the notices to their physical address instead of to their P.O. box, it had failed to timely notify them of their COBRA benefits.

Change of address.

Foruria stated that he had filled out a change of address form changing his mailing address from his physical address to a P.O. box, and e-mailed it to Centerline on February 6, 2016. However, the court pointed out that Centerline had sent the first COBRA notice, via CONEXIS, on January 13, 2016, so that the physical address was the one the Centerline had on file at the time.
The fact that Centerline had mailed the COBRA notices to Foruria’s last known address was sufficient for Centerline to be deemed to have complied with COBRA’s notice requirements, according to the court. There was apparently no obligation on Centerline’s part to re-send the notices once it received Foruria’s e-mail with the change of address. The court also advised that whether or not the Foruria’s received any of the notices was immaterial because the law only requires that an employer make a “good faith” effort to provide notification.
The court observed that Centerline had sent a second set of COBRA notices via Fed-Ex in September 2016, upon commencement of Foruria’s lawsuit, to his physical address, to his P.O. box, and to his e-mail address, all of which Mrs. Foruria acknowledged receipt of during her deposition. The court added, however, that, because the first COBRA notices satisfied COBRA’s requirements, it did not need to address the second set of notices. The court then granted Centerline’s and the plan administrator’s motion for summary judgment on Foruria’s COBRA claim.
The court dismissed Foruria’s claims in their entirety, finding that he was terminated for legitimate reasons and that his termination alone was not sufficient to establish infliction of emotional distress. The court also held that there had been no FMLA interference because Foruria had been terminated based on his loss of eligibility as a driver for both Centerline and BCT and that there had been no FMLA retaliation because Foruria had not claimed that he had opposed any practice made unlawful under the FMLA.

SOURCE: Foruria v. Centerline Drivers, LLC, (DC ID), No. 1:16-cv-00328-EJL-REB, November 6, 2017.
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