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.

The O’Ryan Law Firm has represented numerous employees of Indiana University (“IU”) who have become disabled because of serious illnesses such as chronic pancreatitis, lymes disease, degenerative disk disease, ovarian cancer, and osteoarthritis. A large number of those clients were employees who had worked for Indiana University for many years, some even decades, before reaching the point where they were no longer able to work because of their medical conditions.

Indiana University’s Long Term Disability Plan is an income replacement plan for IU employees who become disabled due to an illness or accident[1].  The following are the general terms of the long term disability coverage provided to IU employees:

  • With claim approval, the plan pays a regular monthly income when an enrolled employee becomes disabled.

Earlier this month, Judge Richard Posner abruptly announced his retirement from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit after more than 35 years on the bench, effective the following day. Judge Posner, a prolific writer and author of more than 3300 judicial opinions and nearly 40 books, was one of the most prominent appellate judges in the United States and the most-cited legal scholar of the 20th century, according to a survey by the Journal of Legal Studies. He carefully drafted his legal opinions to be easy to read and understand, and his signature concise, frank, and often humorous writing style helped to modernize the discipline of legal writing, presenting a stark contrast from the overly formal, long-winded “legalese” that had long dominated the legal field.

Just over three months prior to his retirement, Judge Posner authored an opinionKennedy v. The Lilly Extended Disability Plan, 856 F.3d 1136 (7th Cir. 2017), awarding substantial long term disability benefits to Cathleen Kennedy, an O’Ryan Law Firm client who had been forced to stop working in her position as an HR executive for Eli Lilly & Company as a result of severe fibromyalgia, a nightmarish condition characterized by chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue that often presents with psychosomatic symptoms such as sleep and memory issues, anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, because many of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia – especially pain and fatigue – are difficult to objectively measure, the condition has historically been misunderstood and often goes undiagnosed due to the lack of a reliable means of testing for it. As a result, those who suffer from fibromyalgia also frequently must deal with the frustration caused by doubts about the validity of their condition and symptoms by friends, family, and sometimes even their healthcare providers.

Fortunately, recent scientific advances in the understanding of fibromyalgia have led to increasing acceptance of the validity of the condition and its profound impact on the lives of those who suffer from it. Judge Posner recognized this in his opinion, noting that Lilly itself markets a treatment for fibromyalgia and has been advised by one of its own physicians that fibromyalgia “is not only very common but is typically also very disabling” and that many victims of fibromyalgia “end up needing to stop working because of this condition.” Nonetheless, Lilly had terminated Ms. Kennedy’s long term disability benefits after she had been disabled for nearly four years due to fibromyalgia, despite the fact that her primary treating physicians had declared her to be permanently disabled, largely because there was no objective laboratory data proving the validity of her symptoms. Lilly claimed that although Ms. Kennedy was unable to work full time in her previous executive-level position, she could still work part time in one of “various non-executive positions” in her field.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of our client, Jeremy C., recently filed a lawsuit against Liberty Life Mutual after they wrongfully terminated Jeremy’s disability benefits. Our client was employed as a Store Manager with Wal-Mart, which made him eligible for disability benefits offered through the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. employee benefit plan.  Liberty Mutual is actually the insurance company for the long term disability coverage offered to Wal-Mart employees.

Jeremy worked for many years at Wal-Mart, the last several years as a Store Manager, until he was forced to stop working in March 2015, because of his medical conditions the worst of which was Sjogren’s Syndrome.  Sjögren’s is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. The symptoms from this disease include profound fatigue, memory loss, recurrent sinusitis, difficulty with speech, reflux, esophagitis, muscle pain, upset stomach, irritable bowel, peripheral neuropathy and many more.

As a result of Sjogren’s Syndrome, our client suffered specifically from gait instability, memory loss, episodes of dysarthria and slurred speech, overall weakness/fatigue, numbness and tingling in the right arm and right leg, tremors after physical activity, abdominal pain, acute sinusitis, colon polyps, gastroesophogeal reflux disease with esophagitis, exhaustion, and continuous headaches.  The multitude and severity of these symptoms made it impossible for our client to continue handling the responsibilities of a store manager at a large Wal-Mart store located in Lebanon, Indiana.

O’Ryan Law Firm recently filed an appeal for Long Term Disability benefits against Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (Liberty Mutual) for wrongfully denying a participant’s benefits. The client was a long time employee of a large financial institution and was forced to stop working due to coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, and ischemic cardiomyopathy. The client underwent a coronary bypass in 2010 and had a dual-chamber cardioverter defibrillator implanted in 2015. He suffers from shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and experiences confusion. The high level of stress with the client’s occupation exacerbated the symptoms correlated to his illness. This stress exposed him to a possibility of a severe cardiac event or even death.

Despite the client’s treating physicians providing objective medical proof that he was unable to continue working full time due to his condition, Liberty Mutual hired a contracted physician to review his claim file. The hired contracted physician contended the client could perform a Sedentary occupation on a full time basis. In addition, the hired contracted physician erroneously claimed the client’s treating physician could perform a Sedentary occupation on a full time basis. When in fact, the treating physician never released the client to return to work full time.

Liberty Mutual originally approved the short term disability claim in full, but then turned around and denied his long term disability benefits based on the hired contracted physician review. In an attempt to solidify the client’s denial, Liberty Mutual hired a private investigator to perform surveillance. The private investigator failed to observe any real activity for four entire days, which was consistent with the client’s limitations. Liberty Mutual cited the following definition of “Disability” within the long term disability denial letter:

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of Plaintiff, William M., recently filed a federal lawsuit against Lincoln National Life Insurance Agency (“Lincoln”).   Lincoln is an Indiana corporation with its main headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.  William M. was employed by Olon Industries, which made him eligible for Olon Industries’ employee benefit plan.  Part of the employee benefit plan included long term disability coverage which pays 60% of an employee’s salary if an employee becomes unable to work due to sickness or injury.  Lincoln National agreed to insure the long term disability benefits and provided this coverage to the Olon Industries employees.

William M. was employed by Olon Industries until he became disabled in May 2012.  He became unable to work due to a severe stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, hypertension, permanent vertigo, and partial blindness in his right eye.  His treating physicians provided objective medical proof that he was unable to continue working due to these medical conditions.

Lincoln paid Plaintiff’s claim for disability benefits for 24 months, then they abruptly terminated the benefits with little notice.  Plaintiff internally appealed Lincoln’s decision and in November 2016, Lincoln upheld their decision to deny Plaintiff’s long term disability benefits.  William M.’s doctors never returned him to work even though he was 4 years past his stroke.  As proof that he remained disabled, the Social Security Administration recently reviewed Plaintiff’s claim, and after sending him for a medical exam, concluded that he remains disabled.