Lincoln National Settles Lawsuit with Employee Disabled by Lyme Disease and POTS

A former employee of Mid America Clinical Laboratories hired O’Ryan Law Firm after Lincoln National wrongfully terminated her short term disability benefits and then refused to pay any long term disability benefits.  The client initially applied for short term disability benefits that were offered through her employee benefit plan, although the employee paid all of the premiums herself for the disability coverage.  Lincoln National was the disability insurance company who accepted all of her premiums and agreed to pay her monthly disability benefits in the event she became unable to work due to a serious illness or injury.

The employee suffered from the severe symptoms of Lyme disease including muscle and joint pain, headaches, and disabling fatigue.  The employee treated with one of the best Lyme disease specialists in Indiana, Dr. Kimberly Lentz, whose office is located in Zionsville.  Dr. Lentz reported to Lincoln that the employee had the classic symptoms of Lyme disease and was unable to continue working because of the debilitating consequences of contracting Lyme disease.  Lincoln paid her short term disability benefits for a month but then terminated the claim after they hired a record reviewing doctor to review the records.  After the short term disability was terminated, the employee hired O’Ryan Law Firm to appeal the premature termination of her short term benefits and to assist her with applying for long term disability benefits.

Prior to her serious medical conditions, the employee worked as a medical technician with Mid America Clinical Laboratories for two years.  Her job required her to analyze blood and body fluids, operate sophisticated laboratory equipment and computerized instruments, log data from medical tests, discuss lab findings with physicians, and supervise and train other medical lab technicians.  An extensive amount of concentration and focus was necessary to perform the duties of her position and any mistakes could lead to serious consequences. Mid America is the largest clinical laboratory in Indiana. They complete over 4.5 million tests per year. Mid America is not only located in Indianapolis, but also has over 30 Patient Service Centers throughout central Indiana.

Lincoln National Life Insurance Company is an Indiana insurance company that originally started business in Fort Wayne. Under the Lincoln policy, Lincoln is obligated to pay monthly disability benefit payments if an employee is:

Total Disability or Totally Disabled will be defined as follows: 

  1. During the Elimination Period and Own Occupation Period, it means that due to an Injury or Sickness the Insured Employee is unable to perform each of the Main Duties of his or her Own Occupation.
  2. After the Own Occupation Period, it means that due to an Injury or Sickness the Insured Employee is unable to perform each of the Main Duties of any occupation which his or her training, education or experience will reasonably allow.

The loss of a professional license, an occupational license or certification, or a driver’s license for any reason does not, by itself, constitute Total Disability.

Prior to leaving work, in the fall of 2015, the client developed a burning itchy rash around her eyes, neck and her lips and began experiencing severe fatigue.  She developed knee and elbow pain with a burning sensation that progressed into her neck and shoulders. In September 2016, the client sought the care of her primary care doctor. After receiving positive lab results indicating she had contracted Lyme disease, the client began researching specialists in her area and began treating with Dr. Lentz, a well-known specialist in Lyme disease.  Dr. Lentz ran a full co-infection panel of tests and the client also tested positive for anaplasmosis, which is another tick-borne infection.

Subsequently, the client was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) which is a common condition associated with Lyme disease.  A tilt table test confirmed the POTS diagnosis.  Dr. Lentz reported to Lincoln that Lyme disease causes POTS symptoms and that it is an autonomic nervous system problem.  In a sworn statement, Dr. Lentz stated that “on a day-to-day basis, it would be nearly impossible for her to hold down regular employment because of those symptoms” and that “I’m confident that she would have extreme difficulty holding down a job for any length of time.”  The cardiologist diagnosing POTS, Dr. Das, also confirmed that the client was unable to work given the restrictions from the POTS.  Despite all of this supportive information, Lincoln refused to pay the short and long term disability benefits.

The O’Ryan Law Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the client against Lincoln National.  After several months of litigating the case, Lincoln agreed to attend a mediation in Indianapolis.  The mediation was successful and now the lawsuit has been resolved.

If Lincoln National has wrongfully denied your disability benefits, please contact the O’Ryan Law Firm to find out your rights in pursuing your benefits.