The case contained one little gem, however. In dicta, Muniz stated that, in cases reviewed for abuse of discretion, if the administrator has a structural conflict of interest (see my post about the Supreme Court's decision in Glenn v. MetLife, below), the administrator has the burden of proving that the conflict of interest did not improperly influence its decision. Muniz, 623 F.3d at 1295.
Last week in an unpublished decision in Dine v. MetLife (click the case name to read the decision at the Ninth Circuit's web site) -- an abuse of discretion case -- the Ninth Circuit cited Muniz for exactly that proposition, reversed the district court, and ordered benefits be paid to Ms. Dine forthwith. Prominent in Dine, a very short decision, is the following quote:
At the end of the day this is a fair and just implimentation of the law, since the claimaint rarely can prove with certitude what went on behind the administrator's closed doors. Rather, it is the fiduciary that controls the adjudication, controls the evidence, and must honor its fiduciary duty with "an eye single" to the interests of the participants and beneficiaries. It is consistent with hundreds of years with of common law trusts and fiduciary jurispridence that the burden of proving fiduciary compliance should rest with the fiduciary.