O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of Plaintiff, Brooke W., recently filed a federal lawsuit against Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) (LINA is a subsidiary of CIGNA).  Brooke was an Extension Educator for Purdue University.  Purdue’s main campus is located in West Lafayette Indiana and is one of the premiere educational institutions for higher education.

Facts of the Case Against LINA

Brooke was forced to stop working when she became totally disabled due to multiple diagnoses including Diabetes Mellitus Type 1, small fiber autonomic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, Graves disease, migraines and lupus.  Brooke’s rheumatologist confirmed the diagnosis of lupus SLE based on a positive ANA screen.  She also had an abnormal nerve conduction study of her left ulnar nerve for carpal tunnel syndrome.  Brooke’s occupation required her to travel extensively and her cardiologist restricted her from driving because of the precariousness of her medical condition.  Objective medical proof was provided to LINA by her physicians, and confirmed that Brooke was unable to continue working as an Extension Educator at Purdue due to these serious illnesses.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of Plaintiff, Melissa B., recently settled a lawsuit against American United Life Insurance Company (“AUL”) for the termination of Melissa’s disability insurance benefits after she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure.

Melissa was a teacher with a local public school system and was forced to stop teaching when, shortly after giving birth to her son, she was found to have cardiomyopathy with reduced ejection fraction and chronic systolic congestive heart failure, confirmed by numerous echocardiograms, cardiac MRIs, and other testing procedures. After she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, Melissa began suffering from extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Her cardiologist notified her employer that Melissa had severely reduced left-ventricular systolic function left her at an increased risk for mortality and precluded her from engaging in even light level activities on a full-time basis. Melissa’s treating physicians ordered her off work indefinitely, and AUL awarded her disability benefits under the policy beginning January 1, 2014.

Melissa was awarded Social Security Disability Benefits in September 2015, based on the Social Security Administration’s finding that she had been totally disabled since May 1, 2014.

O’Ryan Law Firm recently filed an appeal for Long Term Disability benefits against Cigna for wrongfully denying a participant’s benefits.  The client was a long-time employee of Toyota, working as a warehouse associate.  She was forced to stop working due to breast cancer, a bilateral mastectomy, and the residual effects of chemotherapy and treatment; including fatigue, migraines, bilateral lower extremity neuropathy and severe pain.

Despite the client’s treating physicians providing objective medical proof that she was unable to continue working due to her condition, Cigna hired a contracted physician to review her claim file.  The contracted physician contended the client could perform a sedentary occupation on a full-time basis even though the client’s own physicians stated she could not work at all.  The treating physicians reported to Cigna that she could not work and never released the client to return to work full-time.

Cigna originally approved the short-term disability and long-term disability claim in full until the time when the definition of Disabled changed to “performing the duties of any occupation.” As soon as this definition kicked in Cigna terminated her benefits.  Cigna’s hired contract physician even agreed with the treatment, limitations and restrictions placed on the client but in order to be hired for another claim file review the contracted doctor opined that the client was able to work a full-time job.  Cigna cited the following definition of “Disability within the long-term disability denial letter:

Human immunodeficiency virus, commonly known as HIV, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These special cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS.[1]

Over the past three decades, revolutionary advances in treatment have dramatically improved the prognosis of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Although no known cure for HIV/AIDS exists, modern treatments have rendered the disease highly manageable. However, while an HIV/AIDS diagnosis is no longer an almost certain death sentence, it still carries the risk of a number of severe, often disabling symptoms.

HIV/AIDS is most frequently treated with antiretroviral medications, which slow the growth of the virus in the patient’s bloodstream, allowing the patient’s immune system to recover and fight off the virus until it is undetectable in blood samples.[2] These medications are typically administered in the form of a single pill that contains a “cocktail” of multiple different antiretroviral drugs. Although these drug cocktails are highly effective in fighting HIV and can essentially eliminate it from a patient’s bloodstream, “reservoirs” of the virus remain in the patient’s body and allow the virus to return to dangerous levels if the patient ceases properly adhering to an antiretroviral treatment regimen.[3] This means that even after patients’ viral loads become undetectable in blood tests, they must continue to adhere to their antiretroviral treatment regimen for the rest of their lives. It is also common for HIV/AIDS patients to have to switch from one antiretroviral drug cocktail from another after the HIV virus in their bodies develop an immunity to one or more of the antiretroviral drugs in the cocktail, so HIV/AIDS patients are always at risk of contracting serious illnesses when their immune systems become compromised due to newly-developed resistances.[4]

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of our client, Deborah P., recently filed a lawsuit against Madison National after they wrongfully terminated her disability benefits. Our client was employed as a Teacher with the Hanover Community School Corporation, which made her eligible for disability benefits offered through the Hanover Community School Corporation employee benefit plan.  Madison National is often times the insurance company for long term disability coverage offered to most teachers.

Deborah began her teaching career in 1984. After 30 years of teaching, Deborah was forced to stop working in December 2014 due to infiltrating ductal carcinoma, hypothyroid, chronic fatigue syndrome, GERD, neuropathy, knee pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, edema, nausea, palpations, cardiomyopathy, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, migraines, and insomnia.

In October 2013, Deborah received a devastating diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma stage 2. Her life became overfilled with treatments, doctor visits, tests, decisions on treatments, etc. Since the tumor was almost 5cm, Deborah underwent chemotherapy first to see if the tumor would shrink and offer her more options. Deborah underwent extremely aggressive chemotherapy and continued to teach during treatments in hopes of beating the cancer and returning to teaching full time. Deborah began experiencing pain in her joints, profound fatigue, and was nauseous all the time. In March 2014, Deborah underwent a lumpectomy. Since 3 out of 5 lymph nodes were removed and tested positive, Deborah lives in daily fear that her cancer will return. In addition to chemotherapy and surgery, Deborah also underwent proton radiation. Deborah has tried to return to work, but became too profoundly fatigue to make it through a normal school day.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of Plaintiff, Dave C., recently filed a lawsuit against a Cigna subsidiary, Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA), after they wrongfully terminated our client’s long term disability benefits which were paid under a Cigna disability policy.  Dave worked for Purdue University as a Health Desk Technical Support Supervisor until he became disabled and eligible for disability benefits under the Cigna policy.

Facts of the Case Against Cigna

After over 18 years of employment at Purdue University, Dave was forced to stop working when he became totally disabled due to Seizure Disorder and the resulting symptoms from this disorder.  As you can imagine, seizure disorder can be difficult to prove with objective tests because there are very little signs of the seizures unless they are actually occurring.  However, Dave’s treating physicians provided objective medical proof that he was unable to continue working due to his seizure disorder.

As a new employee to Ball State University, have you ever questioned whether your insurance carrier will “be there” when you are disabled from an injury or accident?  As a BSU employee, you may make monthly premium payments for long term disability coverage through payroll deduction, only to find out that when you need it, the insurance carrier is putting up road blocks to your rightful and deserved disability benefits.  The consequences of denials or early terminations in disability benefit claims can be devastating.

The O’Ryan Law Firm has represented numerous employees of several universities, including Ball State University, who have become disabled because of serious illnesses such as chronic pancreatitis, Lyme’s disease, fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease, and cancer. A large number of those clients were employees who had worked for a university for many years, some even decades, before reaching the point where they were no longer able to work because of their medical conditions.

Ball State University’s Long-Term Disability Plan is an income replacement plan for BSU employees who become disabled due to an illness or accident.  The following is general information regarding long-term disability coverage provided to BSU employees:

Urinary incontinence is a surprisingly common problem that affects millions of Americans, and is described by the Mayo Clinic [1] as follows:

Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of our client, recently settled an accidental death insurance claim filed against Cigna, and the client’s employer, after Cigna refused to pay her accidental death insurance claim upon the accidental death of her husband.  The insurance coverage was purchased through her employer and insured by Cigna.  Shortly after she was hired, our client Ms. Y enrolled in accidental death insurance coverage for her husband through her employer and paid the premiums for the coverage through payroll deductions.

Unfortunately, several weeks after she started her new position, Ms. Y’s husband was killed in a traffic accident when he was struck by multiple motor vehicles while attempting to cross the street.  After her husband’s death, Ms. Y completed and submitted all paperwork provided to her by her employer in order to submit a claim to Cigna under the group accidental death insurance coverage which she had been paying for through payroll deductions.  Cigna denied Ms. Y’s claim, contending that her husband had died before our client was considered to be in a “Covered Class.”  She was never told that there was a 90-day waiting period for the accidental death benefits coverage to begin and nowhere in her company’s handbook and recruiting materials does it mention a waiting period for accidental death benefits coverage.

Despite everything that indicated our client was properly enrolled in the accidental death insurance coverage, Cigna denied her claim, contending that she was not eligible for the coverage because of an alleged 90 day waiting period found in small print in a multiple page insurance policy that was never given to our client.  Apparently only Cigna was aware of this alleged 90 day waiting period, because the employee relations manager and other employees were baffled by the reason Cigna had denied the claim.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Salyers v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, ___ F.3d ___, No. 15-56371 (9th Cir. September 20, 2017) recently rejected an attempt by MetLife to avoid paying a $250,000 death benefit to a widow who had purchased $250,000 in life insurance coverage on her husband prior to his death. In what has recently become an increasingly common scenario, Susan Salyers purchased $250,000 in life insurance on her husband Gary Wolk through a MetLife plan offered by her employer and timely paid all of her premiums on the policy, but MetLife refused to pay the full amount of the death benefit after discovering that Ms. Salyers had not provided the required “evidence of insurability” when purchasing the insurance coverage.

According to the fine print in the MetLife policy, Ms. Salyers was required to submit “evidence of insurability” (proof that her husband was in good health) before any life insurance coverage greater than $50,000 would take effect. However, Ms. Salyers had originally applied for only $30,000 in coverage, and through a clerical error, her employer enrolled her in a policy providing $500,000 in coverage, for which she paid the full premium amounts to MetLife via payroll deductions. At the next open enrollment period, Ms. Salyers elected $250,000 in coverage for her husband, but no one ever told her that she needed to provide “evidence of insurability” in order to obtain this coverage. Nonetheless, MetLife happily accepted her premium payments while never insisting on “evidence of insurability.”  Two weeks later, Ms. Salyers’ husband died.

After the death of her husband, Ms. Salyers submitted a claim to MetLife for the life insurance that she had purchased, but MetLife refused to pay the $250,000 benefit, insisting that she had failed to meet the terms of the policy by not submitting “evidence of insurability.” This was the first time Ms. Salyers had ever heard about a requirement for “evidence of insurability.” Neither the employer nor MetLife had notified Ms. Salyers that she needed to complete further paperwork to be eligible for the life insurance coverage. After MetLife denied the claim, Ms. Salyers sued Met Life, asserting that by accepting her premium payments in the amounts requested for the $250,000 coverage and failing to request evidence of insurability, it was bound to pay the $250,000 death benefit. At trial, judgment was entered in favor of MetLife, and Ms. Salyers appealed to the Ninth Circuit.