In a case involving alleged violations of ERISA and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, the District Court of the Western District of Kentucky certified a class of Anthem Health Plan insureds who were denied coverage or reimbursement for Applied Behavior Analysis, a particular treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders. The court then ordered plaintiff to submit a proposed draft notice to be sent to class members. The parties agreed (for the most part) on the content of the notice, but a dispute arose regarding the method of delivery to the class members.
Plaintiff proposed direct mail notice supplemented with a class website, which would serve as a central location for posting the notice as well as any related class documents, including the complaint, the order certifying the class, and future scheduling orders or briefing on significant issues. Anthem opposed the website, arguing that the class was not large enough to require this medium and that using the website would put the onus on class members to monitor the litigation. In addition, Anthem argued that material posted online is at risk of “dissemination and distortion” and proposed as an alternative that the website be password-protected with unique passwords for each class member.
The court analyzed plaintiff’s proposed notice under the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(2)(B), which provides that “the court must direct to class members the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort.” The court recognized that notice by mail is preferred where, as here, the names and addresses of most class members were known. But the court cited numerous opinions – and quoted from the Manual for Complex Litigation – approving websites as a useful, relatively low cost supplement to direct individual notice in class action litigation.
As a result, the court rejected Anthem’s objections. The court also declined Anthem’s alternative proposal to require password protection for the website, finding no reason why passwords would be necessary or beneficial under the circumstances of this case.
Wilson v. Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, Inc., Case No. 3:14-cv-743-TBR (D.KY., March 21, 2017)