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Evidence a COBRA Election Form was Mailed Becomes Pertinent

On May 21, 2012, in Somers v. Cudd Energy Services., Inc., 2012 WL 1836269 (W.D. Okla. 2012), the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma held that an employer’s COBRA system for mailing COBRA notices protected it against an employee’s claim of not receiving a required COBRA election notice.

A former employee sued the employer for failing to timely provide a COBRA election notice. The employee claimed that she did not receive an election notice until she contacted the employer three months after her termination. The employer asserted that its TPA had timely sent the notice by first-class mail to the employee’s last known address. The employer provided a description of its COBRA notice process, copies of the actual letters mailed to the employee’s last known address, and an audit report confirming the date of the mailing.

The court held that the employer had used a procedure that constituted a good faith effort to furnish the notice to the employee, and therefore the employer was not liable for a COBRA failure regardless if the employee received the letter.

This case shows the importance of following standard procedures and maintaining detailed records that enable them to prove a COBRA election notice was sent timely. Proof that the notice was sent timely by first-class mail to an employee’s last known address is usually sufficient to establish the employer fulfilled its responsibility.