O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of client Stacy K., recently filed a federal lawsuit against Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company after Reliance Standard wrongfully terminated her disability benefits after paying the benefits for three years. Stacy was employed as a Case Manager with Southern Hills Counseling Center which made her eligible for disability benefits under her employee benefit plan.
Stacy was forced to stop working in May 2014 due to the disabling effects of Multiple Sclerosis and severe migraine headaches. Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. MS is a type of autoimmune disorder. It isn’t known what causes Multiple Sclerosis, although environmental factors and genetics are believed to play a role. Common symptoms include problems with balance and sensation, difficulty walking, leg or arm movement, fatigue, muscle spasms, tingling, numbness, and bladder control. The symptoms, severity, and duration can vary from person to person. Tremors can occur during precise movements, in the hands, or limbs.
Currently, multiple sclerosis is not a curable disease. Treatment strategies can help slow or modify the course of the disease, including treatment of relapses, and make the patient more comfortable.
Typically, a neurologist is the main treating provider for multiple sclerosis. Stacy’s neurologist strongly supported Stacy’s disability claim unequivocally stating that Stacy is disabled from her occupation as a Case Manager and is disabled from performing the material duties of any occupation.
When Stacy became disabled, she applied for long term disability benefits offered through her employee benefit plan which was insured by Reliance Standard. Reliance Standard approved her long term disability benefits for three years until Reliance Standard terminated the benefits when the definition of “disabled” changed to the “any occupation” definition. A few months before the termination, Reliance Standard considered offering a lump sum buyout or shelving her file for the remainder of the claim. Instead, Reliance Standard terminated her benefits claiming that Stacy’s medical conditions did not prevent her from performing other occupations which were not as physical as her own occupation. Stacy has a college education and one year of law school so it was easy for Reliance Standard to claim that she was qualified to perform other jobs.
After the termination of her disability benefits, Stacy pursued an internal appeal with Reliance Standard sending in further medical information to support her claim and supportive letters from her family. The medical information included a recent brain MRI showing that the white matter lesions on her brain had increased thus indicating an increase in the disease state. Despite this information, Reliance Standard refused to reinstate the benefits.
After the lawsuit was filed by O’Ryan Law Firm, the court scheduled an initial pretrial conference in the case. At the initial pretrial conference, the magistrate judge discussed scheduling a settlement conference with the court and both parties agreed that a settlement conference may be beneficial for attempting to resolve the case. The magistrate scheduled the settlement conference and all parties attended including a representative of Reliance Standard. The magistrate judge conducted the settlement negotiations and was able to successfully bring the parties to an agreed resolution of the case. The settlement of the case was a huge relief to Stacy who had mounting bills from not being paid for many months.
If Reliance Standard has denied or terminated your disability benefits, please contact the Indiana long term disability lawyers at O’Ryan Law Firm at (317) 255-1000 to discuss your rights under the Reliance Standard policy and ERISA.