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Fiduciary Notice Obligations Associated with Change of Carriers

This article examines the case of Lucas v. Steel King Industries, Inc., which discusses the fiduciary obligation of plan administrators to inform  participants in advance of ERISA’s statutory notice periods regarding the potential impact caused by a change of life insurance carrier under a group life insurance plan. Here, the change in the employer’s group life insurance carrier resulted in termination of coverage for a disabled participant who might have been able to convert the policy to individual coverage within the first 30 days after the change—had he been informed of the change within such period.  Though the court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the plan administrator because the participant did not otherwise meet the eligibility requirements for conversion, the court suggested that plan administrators have a fiduciary duty to analyze the impact of material changes and, in some cases, may have a duty to inform participants of material changes more quickly than required by statute.