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Bilheimer v. Federal Express Corp. Long Term Disability Plan

On May 5, 2015, Bancroft obtained a unanimous victory before the Fourth Circuit in Bilheimer v. Federal Express Corp. Long Term Disability Plan, 605 F. App’x 172 (4th Cir. 2015). Bancroft partner George W. Hicks, Jr. served as court-appointed amicus curiae defending the judgment of the district court awarding appellee, a retired employee, benefits that he had been denied under a long-term disability plan governed by ERISA. The appeal addressed two questions: (1) whether the appropriate standard of judicial review for denial of the employee’s benefits under the ERISA plan is de novo or abuse of discretion, and (2) whether the denial of the employee’s benefits was proper. The Fourth Circuit unanimously held that de novo review is appropriate because the plan in question did not confer discretion upon the decisionmaker that ultimately denied the benefits, and that the evidence supported a determination that the benefits had been wrongly denied.

Opinion