Release Of Claims Fails To Block ERISA Lawsuit

A recent case of interest involved a plaintiff who worked at an IKEA store for twenty five years. During his employment, he enrolled in and received basic and supplemental term life insurance coverage, and his spouse maintained coverage as a dependent.

IKEA also maintained a retiree benefit plan. Continuation of the term life insurance, for supplemental benefits and for dependent coverage, were included in the retiree life insurance benefit program.

Based on information he received regarding the retiree life insurance benefit program, plaintiff believed he and his spouse would be eligible, without further medical examination, to ‘continue’ the basic and/or supplemental life coverage for himself and his spouse that was in effect while actively employed by IKEA.

Plaintiff retired in 2018. When plaintiff retired, he received 52 weeks of pay in exchange for which he signed a voluntary release which included, as of the date of execution, a release of ‘any and all claims, known and unknown, asserted or unasserted,’ plaintiff had under ERISA (except for any vested benefits under any tax qualified benefit plan).

He elected to participate in the retiree life insurance benefit program, but did not immediately receive his options for retiree life insurance benefits. Following repeated inquiries, IKEA informed plaintiff he could not receive life insurance benefits under the active employee plan, but could convert this benefit to a whole life individual policy with MetLife.

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