When a plan beneficiary has equal or better access to the required information, he bears the burden of proof in showing he is eligible for benefits under an ERISA plan. However, when the proof is in the employer’s hands, the burden shifts to the plan or the employer. Here, Barton claimed benefits, but was denied for failing to prove that (a) the employer he worked for was a participating employer in the plan, and (b) that Barton had worked 1000 hours per year for the ten years needed to qualify. It is for the plan or employer to keep records regarding those matters, so the burden should not have been placed on the employee to prove those facts.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Owens, J.; Ikuta, J., dissenting); April 21, 2016; No. 13-56379