Dan T. is 60 years old and was a cable splicing technician with a telecommunications company, where he worked for approximately 29 years until late 2015, when he was forced to stop working due to the debilitating effects of bilateral knee osteoarthritis and cervical and lumbar spondylosis. Since that time, he has also undergone total replacements of both knees and developed severe, debilitating chronic cervicogenic/occipital headaches that occur on a daily basis; moderate to severe bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; and increasingly severe lower back and leg pain that persists despite a lumbar spinal fusion surgery in early 2018.

When Dan was forced to stop working, he applied for long term disability (LTD) benefits through his employer’s disability plan, which was insured by Prudential. Under the terms of the Prudential policy, Dan was entitled to receive LTD benefits for up to 24 months if he was unable to perform the material duties of his own occupation. Because Dan’s medical conditions prevented him from working in his own occupation as a cable splicing technician, Prudential awarded him LTD benefits, which it paid until May of 2018.

However, the terms of the Prudential LTD policy dictate that after 24 months of receiving LTD benefits, Dan was only entitled to continue receiving benefits if he could prove that he was disabled from performing any gainful occupation for which he was “reasonably fitted by education, training or experience.” As a result, Prudential terminated Dan’s benefits after 24 months, based on a vocational review that concluded that he was able to perform certain sedentary work for which he was qualified by his education and experience.

O’Ryan Law firm has extensive experience representing clients in appeals and litigation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which governs most claims for benefits under employer-sponsored insurance plans. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor amended its regulations under ERISA, providing claimants with some additional rights during the process of appealing denials of benefits under plans governed by ERISA.

One important additional right granted under the new ERISA regulation is the opportunity to review and respond to any additional evidence considered by an insurance company during an appeal of a benefits claim denial. This means that if a claimant appeals a denial or termination of benefits and the insurance company sends the file to a reviewing physician, the claimant has a right to read and respond to the report of that reviewing physician before the insurance company can make its final decision on the appeal. O’Ryan Law firm recently took advantage of this new protection to obtain short term disability (STD) benefits for a client who had previously had her STD benefits terminated.

Kim M was a Repair Service Attendant at a large telecom company and was forced to stop working in early 2017[1] as a result of failed back syndrome, multilevel degenerative disc disease, lumbar facet arthritis, and spondylopathy. After she was unable to return to work, she was awarded STD benefits under her employer’s disability plan, which was administered by Sedgwick. However, Sedgwick terminated Kim’s STD benefits several months later, claiming there was no longer sufficient medical evidence to support her claim. In the letter explaining its termination of Kim’s benefits, Sedgwick relied on the opinions of two reviewing physicians who asserted that Kim was not disabled.

Kirsti K was an Administrative Assistant for a large manufacturing company for several years until late 2016, when she was in a severe car accident in which a semi tractor-trailer ran a red light and struck her vehicle, ejecting her several feet from the vehicle onto the roadway. As a result of the accident, Kirsti suffered severe and debilitating injuries, including a broken wrist that required surgical repair.

Kirsti missed almost three full months of work after the accident and subsequent surgery, but was able to return to work late in 2016. However, upon returning to work, Kirsti struggled to maintain her previous levels of productivity. Over the next few months, she also began to develop increasingly severe lower back pain, a large lumbar hematoma, painful keloid scarring from her wrist surgery,[1] and psychological impairments including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

By May of 2017, Kirsti’s condition had deteriorated to the point that she was forced to once again leave work. She underwent numerous injections to treat her lower back pain, but experienced little meaningful relief. She also underwent extensive psychological counseling and therapy, in addition to physical therapy. Unfortunately, her conditions remained severe and continued to prevent her from returning to work.

O’Ryan Law Firm has sued Cigna on behalf of a Finish Line employee who became disabled.  Cigna paid long term disability benefits for one year, and then terminated her benefits.  The client worked as an IT Business Relationship Manager at the Finish Line corporate office in Indianapolis.  Her job required her to sit for more than 6 hours during her shift, and stand for up to 4 hours at a time periodically.  Her average work week was 45-50 hours. It was a very physically demanding job.

The Finish Line is an American retail chain that sells athletic shoes and related apparel and accessories. The company operates 660 stores in 47 states, mostly in enclosed shopping malls, as well as Finish Line-branded athletic shoe departments in more than 450 Macy’s stores.   The Finish Line has one of its’ corporate offices located in Indianapolis.  The following is a statement from the Indianapolis Corporate Office:

“Finish Line has the latest running shoes, basketball sneakers, casual shoes and athletic gear from brands like Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Under Armour, Puma, Champion and more. We’re committed to providing top-notch customer service and offering a variety of products for men, women and kids so you can find all the shoes, clothing or accessories that you’ve been looking for.”

Nick M. hired O’Ryan Law Firm to assist with his appeal for long term disability benefits from Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”), a CIGNA company.  LINA approved and paid his long term disability benefits claim for seven years. After seven years of paying his disability benefits, and despite having no evidence that his condition had improved, LINA abruptly terminated Nick’s benefits in May 2018.  Previously, Nick worked as an Information Analyst with Purdue University for almost ten years before he became disabled.  Purdue’s main campus is located in West Lafayette Indiana and is one of the premiere educational institutions for higher education.  Purdue offers more than 200 majors for undergraduates, over 69 masters and doctoral programs, and professional degrees in pharmacy and veterinary medicine

LINA is a Cigna corporation whose principal place of business is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Under the LINA policy, Nick is entitled to continue receiving disability benefits if meets the definition of disabled pursuant to the following definition from the policy:

After Disability Benefits have been payable for 12 months, the Employee is considered Disabled if, solely due to Injury or Sickness, he or she is:

Katie P was a Customer Service Manager for a small web-based company (“Company A”) for several years. Her employer was acquired by a larger company (“Company B”) in July of 2016, but her job was not impacted by the acquisition. She kept her job, but technically became an employee of Company B. Her employee benefits, including her long term disability insurance coverage, were transferred to Company B’s benefits plan at the time the acquisition was completed.

For years, Katie had been struggling with numerous medical conditions that made it difficult for her to work. These conditions became progressively more severe over time, to the point that Katie became totally disabled and was forced to stop working in February of 2017.

Katie filed a claim for long term disability (“LTD”) benefits under the Prudential Life Insurance Company (“Prudential”) LTD policy provided by Company B’s group benefits plan. However, despite acknowledging that Katie was truly disabled, Prudential denied her LTD claim, arguing that Katie’s conditions were preexisting and therefore excluded from coverage under the LTD policy.

Fibromyalgia is a very complex chronic pain disorder that affects an estimated 10 million individuals in the United States and approximately three to six percent of the world population.  For those suffering from fibromyalgia, the disease causes widespread pain and tenderness to touch and can affect the entire body.  Fibromyalgia symptoms can include stiffness, pain, fatigue, tiredness, depression/anxiety, memory, sleep issues, concentration, and headaches including at times migraines.  Fibromyalgia symptoms can be very severe and debilitating affecting a persons’ work, social and daily life.

The criteria, established by the American College of Rheumatology in 1990, contains a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for the duration of three months or more and pain in at least 11 of the 18 designated tender points when pressure is applied.  In 2000, the American College of Rheumatology ceased using the criteria of tender points and instead focused on pain being widespread and accompanied by symptoms such as sleep problems, problems with thinking and fatigue.  Unfortunately, those who suffer with fibromyalgia typically have normal results with conventional testing. A physician knowledgeable about the disease, such as a rheumatologist, is necessary to make the diagnosis in part by ruling out other causes.

The National Fibromyalgia Institute (NFI) website states that fibromyalgia is marked by profound, chronic, and widespread pain that can migrate to all parts of the body in varying intensities.  The pain can be described as stabbing, shooting, muscle aching, throbbing and twitching.  Neurologists have noted that patients with this disease can experience numbness and tingling, aggravated by stress, weather and movements.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of our client who is a disabled hospital ultrasound technician, recently filed a lawsuit against Madison National Life Insurance Company.  Our client was forced to stop working due to severe chronic migraines, which she suffered several days a week. These migraines were often so intense that they caused her to become nauseous to the point of vomiting, frequently spending entire days in the bathroom as a result.

After our client became disabled, Madison National paid her benefits for nearly four years under the long term disability policy it provided through her employer. The Social Security Administration also awarded our client disability benefits, finding that she was unable to perform any gainful occupation. Madison National even continued to pay our client benefits for more than a year after the policy’s “own occupation” period ended and the policy’s definition of “disability” changed to require her to be disabled from performing not only her own job, but any job for which her education, skills, and experience qualified her.

Unfortunately, in January of 2017, Madison National abruptly notified our client that her claim was being closed based on a review of her medical records that allegedly determined that she was no longer disabled. In our experience, this is a common tactic that Madison National uses to terminate claims that it no longer wishes to continue paying.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of our client who is a disabled Notre Dame employee, recently filed a  lawsuit against a Cigna subsidiary, Life Insurance Company of North America.  The client had been employed as an Academic Program Administrator with the University of Notre Dame.  Notre Dame is a private, non-profit Catholic research university in the community of Notre Dame, Indiana, near the city of South Bend, Indiana.  Notre Dame is consistently recognized as one of the top universities in the world.  Notre Dame started as a small all-male institution in 1842 by a French priest and seven other members of the Congregation of Holy Cross on 524 acres in northern Indiana.  In April of 1879 a disastrous fire destroyed the main building which housed virtually the entire University; however, 300 laborers, working all summer, rebuilt the structure that still stands today, topped by the gleaming Golden Dome.

In its early days, Notre Dame University enrolled religious novitiates, preparatory and grade school students and manual labor students but its classical collegiate curriculum never maintained more than a dozen students a year in the early decades.  Father John Zahm, who accompanied former President Theodore Roosevelt on a South American expedition, became the builder of the science departments at Notre Dame and inspired the University’s first steps in research. Father James Burns, Notre Dame’s great theorist of education, revolutionized Notre Dame University in the 1920s by eliminating the preparatory school and dramatically upgrading the law school.

Beginning in the 1930s Notre Dame University was strengthened by an influx of distinguished European scholars fleeing the Nazis and, drawing on their expertise, Father (later Cardinal) John O’Hara, expanded the graduate school to include programs in biology, physics, philosophy and mathematics. Notre Dame first enrolled women undergraduates in 1972.  The school is officially named the University of Notre Dame du Lac (University of Our Lady of the Lake).

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana overturned Life Insurance Company of North America’s (LINA) Termination of long term disability benefits owed to Greg D., an O’Ryan Law Firm client who was forced to leave his job as a maintenance mechanic with Ohio Valley Electric Corporation/Indiana-Kentucky Electrical Corporation (OVEC/IKEC) after he was forced to stop working due to severe back, neck, shoulder, hip, and leg pain. The Court’s opinion, written by District Judge William T. Lawrence, is the result of several months of zealous litigation by the O’Ryan Law Firm on behalf of Greg.

After working for OVEC/IKEC for more than 27 years, Greg underwent shoulder surgery in December of 2006 to locate and repair a tear in his rotator cuff. Unfortunately, his shoulder pain did not subside after the surgery, despite diligent treatment by Greg’s physicians and a rigorous course of more than 50 physical therapy sessions between February and July of 2007. As a result, Greg was unable to return to work in his heavy-duty occupation as a maintenance mechanic. Meanwhile, he also continued to seek treatment for his chronic neck and back pain.

After the shoulder surgery, LINA awarded Greg benefits under the long term disability policy it had issued through his employer. A few months after it began paying Greg’s benefits, LINA hired an investigator to perform surveillance on Greg because they believed he was working while collecting benefits. The investigator’s surveillance revealed no evidence of activity that would be inconsistent with Greg’s disability, and LINA continued paying his benefits for 24 months. After 24 months of benefits, the definition of “disability” under the LINA policy changed to require that Greg be disabled from performing any occupation, not just his own heavy duty occupation. Upon this change in the definition of “disability,” LINA terminated Greg’s benefits, arguing that he could perform some sedentary work.