Case against Thrivent, NAIC why arbitration clauses should be banned, If arbitration benefits members why mandate?, Erickson vs Thrivent
“Thrivent contends that its commitment to individual arbitration is ‘”important to the membership because it reflects Thrivent’s Christian Common Bond, helps preserve members’ fraternal relationships, and avoids protracted and adversarial litigation that could undermine Thrivent’s core mission.’”…Thrivent v. Acosta Nov. 3, 2017
“pre-dispute mandatory arbitration provisions are inappropriate in insurance policies and incompatible with the legal duties insurers owe policyholders when handling their claims.”…NAIC, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, August 15, 2016
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”…Matthew 7:15
From Erickson vs Thrivent.
“This case involves an insurance contract between Plaintiff Raymond Erickson and a fraternal benefit society. Insurance contracts issued by a fraternal benefit society generally include the society’s bylaws, as well as any subsequent amendments to the bylaws, provided that the amendments do not reduce the benefits promised in the original contract. This Court must decide whether Erickson is bound by an arbitration clause that was not in his original insurance
contract but was later added to the fraternal benefit society’s bylaws. Because the arbitration clause does not reduce Erickson’s benefits under the contract, this Court finds that the clause applies to him and requires him to arbitrate his claims.”
“Erickson made a claim for benefits under the contract. in December 2014 after he moved into a long-term care facility. Doc. 1 at 13. Thrivent paid Erickson benefits for some time, but terminated them in November 2015. Doc. 1 at 16, 18. Erickson then sued Thrivent in this Court, asserting claims for breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Doc. 1. The parties mediated before Magistrate Judge Veronica Duffy, but were unable to resolve their dispute. Doc. 11. Thereafter, Thrivent filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and argued that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-14, and the Dispute Resolution Bylaw require this Court to stay the case and compel arbitration. Docs. 14, 15, 21. Erickson opposed the motion, contending that the Dispute Resolution Bylaw is unenforceable for several reasons.”
“State contract law governs whether a valid arbitration agreement exists between Erickson and Thrivent. First Options of Chi .. Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995). This Court is sitting in diversity jurisdiction, so it applies South Dakota’s choice-of-law rules to determine which state’s laws govern whether a valid arbitration agreement exists. Dakota Foundry, 891 F. Supp. 2d at 1095. The parties disagree on which state’s law should apply, with Thrivent arguing
for Wisconsin law and Erickson arguing for South Dakota law.”
“The issue of which state’s law applies does not raise a material question of fact because the Dispute Resolution Bylaw constitutes a valid arbitration agreement under Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin law. Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have all enacted statutes regulating fraternal benefit societies. Minn. Stat.§§ 64B.Ol–64B.48; SDCL §§ 58-37A-1 to 58-37A-39; Wis. Stat. §§ 614.01–614.96, 632.93. Under these laws, a fraternal benefit society
insurance contract consists of the insurance certificate, the member’s application, and the laws of the society. Minn. Stat. § 64B.19; SDCL § 58-37A-19; Wis. Stat. § 632.93. Critically, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin statutes recognize that contracts between a fraternal benefit society and its members include later amendments to the society’s laws, provided that the
amendments do not destroy or diminish the benefits promised in the original contract. . Minn. Stat.§ 64B.19(2) (“Any changes, additions, or amendments to the laws of the society duly made or enacted subsequent to the issuance of the certificate, shall bind the owner and the beneficiaries, and shall govern and control the benefit contract in all respects the same as though the changes, additions, or amendments had been made prior to and were in force at the time of the application for insurance, except that no change, addition or amendment shall destroy or diminish benefits that the society contracted to give the owner as of the date of issuance.”); SDCL § 58-37-A-19 (“Any changes, additions or amendments to the laws of the society made or enacted after the issuance of the certificate, bind the owner and the beneficiaries, and govern and control the benefit contract in all respects the same as though the changes, additions, or
amendments had been made before and were in force at the time of the application for insurance. However, no change, addition, or amendment may destroy or diminish benefits which the society . contracted to give the owner.as of the date of issuance.”); Wis. Stat. § 632.93(2) (“[A]ny changes in the laws of a fraternal made subsequent to the issuance of a policy or certificate bind the
owner and any beneficiary under the policy or certificate as if they had been in force at the time of the application, so long as they do not destroy or diminish benefits promised in the policy or certificate.”). As required by Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin law, Minn. Stat. § 64B.19; SDCL § 58-37-A-19; Wis. Stat.§ 632.93, Erickson’s contract states that the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, including any later amendments, are part of the agreement: ”
United Insurance vs Office of Insurance Regulation, State of Florida.
“Section 624.155 is a statute regulating the business of insurance. The statute relates, directly or indirectly, to the relationship between the insurance company and the policyholder. The proposed arbitration agreement would impair, invalidate or supersede section 624.155. The statute provides for a civil action — with the relevant procedural protections. The statute also provides for court costs and fees. Mandatory binding arbitration lacks the procedural and constitutional protections (such as jury and appeal to an Article V court) of a civil action.”
NAIC: Why arbitration clauses should be banned.
“This judicial recognition that mandatory arbitration provisions can interfere with core state and federal Constitutional rights, and that consumers have not “consented” in any meaningful sense to these clauses, apply equally to insurance consumers. This is demonstrated previously in the memorandum presented at the April 5, 2016 Consumer Liaison Meeting in New Orleans, and further detailed by the consumer group Texas Watch.2 Along with our colleagues, we can provide detailed information on these issues if D Committee wishes.
Today we focus on the claims process. The nature of the insurance promise is different from most other consumer services or products, and pre-dispute mandatory arbitration provisions are inappropriate in insurance policies and incompatible with the legal duties insurers owe policyholders when handling their claims.
- Companies that include pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts presumably do so because it will be to their advantage should a dispute later occur.
- However, handling claims is an essential element of the insurance contract and insurers are required to consider the best interests of their policyholders. Courts frequently describe this broad duty as requiring “the insurer to consider the interests of its policyholder in a manner at least equal to its own.”3
- Inserting a pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clause in an insurance policy allows the insurer to select the venue most favorable to it should a dispute later occur and therefore makes it less likely that policyholders will assert their rights to dispute their insurers’ claim evaluations, and less likely they will succeed when they do.
- Insurers convinced that arbitration will benefit policyholders and insurers equally (or policyholders more), should therefore be willing to provide – and not mandate – arbitration as an option when an actual dispute occurs. If arbitration provides a truly neutral forum, then there is no need for an insurer to insist on its use.”
“Insurers that would insist on mandatory arbitration of policyholder disputes have selected the forum that they believe will be more favorable to them than to their policyholders, if not on each individual claim then in the aggregate. However, manipulating the dispute resolution process in this manner conflicts with the duties insurers owe their policyholders and is not holding their policyholders’ interests “at least equal to their own.”
If arbitration was truly a neutral forum rather than one favoring insurers, then there would be no need for an insurer to insist on its use before a dispute has even arisen. Insurers should utilize arbitration only when the policyholder has consented to do so after an actual dispute occurs (which is what the suggested amendment to the Model Unfair Trade Practices Act should accomplish), rather than requiring it in boilerplate language that the policyholder is very unlikely to read, could not bargain over the provision even if she did, and could not make an
informed decision at the point of sale on the merits. True freedom of contract, combined with the fundamental right to a trial, requires a knowing relinquishment of that right, which can only occur voluntarily once a specific dispute has materialized.”
“Taken together, these decisions deliver two clear messages: (1) States can enforce bans on arbitration provisions in insurance contracts, and (2) the likelihood of surviving a FAA preemption argument is often related to the specificity of the prohibition. Our sample language (below) attempts to maximize the power of McCarran-Ferguson by adding it as an amendment to the Model UTPA, which itself states in Section 1 that “The purpose of this Act is to regulate trade practices in the business of insurance in accordance with the intent of
Congress … [citing McCarran-Ferguson],” and by making the ban directly related to insurance contracts.”