DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court on Feb. 12 affirmed the dismissal of two long-term disability insurance lawsuits, finding that the plaintiffs failed to sue and to serve the proper parties (Caroline Burton, et al. v. Colorado Access, et al., No. 2018 CO 11, Colo. Sup., 2018 Colo. LEXIS 128).
BOSTON — A Massachusetts federal judge on Feb. 14 granted summary judgment in favor of a disability insurer in a U.S. Army veteran’s class action suit alleging that the insurer wrongfully offset disability benefits payable under its policy by disability benefits received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Marco Martinez v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, No. 16-12154, D. Mass.).
CHICAGO — An employee seeking long-term disability (LTD) benefits effectively waived his right to challenge the untimeliness of the initial denial of his claim as he chose to pursue an appeal first rather than filing suit, a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Feb. 14 (John Dragus v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company, No. 17-1752, 7th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 3444).
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A West Virginia federal judge on Feb. 12 found that a benefits plan and insurer were not obligated to provide a plan participant with documents in relation to his discovery request because they are not the plan administrators, granting them summary judgment on his claim for violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (Figlioli v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, et al., No. 1:17CV171, N.D. W.Va., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22155).
PHILADELPHIA — The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 12 affirmed a district court’s ruling that a disability insurer’s termination of benefits was not arbitrary and capricious because the claimant failed to prove that she suffered solely from a physical disability that precluded her from performing the duties of any occupation (Serilyn Krash v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Group, No. 17-1814, 3rd Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 3240).
LOS ANGELES — A California federal judge on Feb. 6 denied a motion to transfer a disability claimant’s suit to Pennsylvania federal court because the defendants failed to prove that transferring the suit would serve the convenience of the parties and would promote the interests of justice (Stephanie Stefan v. Life Insurance Company of North America, et al., No. 17-6165, C.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20356).
BALTIMORE — A Maryland federal judge on Feb. 1 determined that a disability claimant’s breach of contract suit is barred by the applicable statute of limitations because the statute of limitations began to run when the insurer issued its denial letter and not when the insurer denied the claimant’s appeal (Nancy F. George v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., No. 17-1073, D. Md., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16528).
SAN FRANCISCO — A claim for pension disability benefits was properly denied because the disability claimant failed to submit medical records detailing his disability as requested on multiple occasions by the plan at issue, a California federal judge said Feb. 6 (Vanmark Strickland v. AT&T Pension Benefit Plan, No. 17-01393, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19566).
LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Kentucky federal judge on Feb. 5 affirmed a disability plan’s denial of long-term disability benefits after determining that the evidence supports the denial of benefits for the claimant’s injury and that the plan provided a reasoned explanation for its denial of benefits (Tracy Kellar v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 17-81, E.D. Ky., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18065).
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana federal magistrate judge on Feb. 2 denied a disability claimant’s motion to compel discovery on the basis that the claimant failed to meet her burden of proving that the plan operated under a conflict of interest that would entitle her to conduct discovery (Angel Allen v. The Lilly Extended Disability Plan, et al., No. 16-2224, S.D. Ind., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17290).
TUCSON, Ariz. — An Arizona federal judge on Jan. 19 determined that a disability claimant is entitled to current and retroactive long-term disability (LTD) benefits because the evidence supports a finding that the claimant is clearly disabled from performing the duties of any occupation (Rebecca Brown v. Life Insurance Company of North America, et al., No. 16-162, D. Ariz., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9759).
LAS VEGAS — A Nevada federal judge on Jan. 24 dismissed a disability claimant’s suit against a disability insurer after determining that the claimant failed to prove that Nevada is the proper jurisdiction for the suit (Edgar Ortiz v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 17-580, D. Nev., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11374).
MISSOULA, Mont. — A Montana federal judge on Jan. 30 reinstated a disability claimant’s long-term disability benefits and ordered the disability insurer to reimburse the claimant for the amount offset by the insurer after determining that a settlement received by the claimant was not subject to offset because the settlement was not for the same disability for which the claimant was receiving disability benefits (Dawn Rustad-Link v. Providence Health and Services, et al., No. 16-136, D. Mont., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14928).
DALLAS — A Texas federal judge on Jan. 26 dismissed the remaining discrimination claim in a disability claimant’s suit seeking benefits under a short-term disability (STD) plan for breast augmentation surgery to treat the illness of gender dysphoria after determining that the claimant failed to prove that the employer discriminated against her under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Charlize Marie Baker v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-3679, N.D. Texas; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12854).
JACKSON, Miss. — A disability claimant is not entitled to long-term disability (LTD) benefits because the plan’s pre-existing condition limitation bars benefits because the claimant was treated for back pain within the plan’s look-back period, a Mississippi federal judge said Jan. 24 (Gary Bales v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., No. 15-790, S.D. Miss., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11180).
PHILADELPHIA — The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 24 determined that a district court properly applied an abuse-of-discretion standard of review in a disability benefits dispute but remanded the suit after determining that questions of facts exist regarding the disability insurer’s decision not to conduct an independent medical evaluation and disregard of the claimant’s fatigue and pain complaints (Renee Killebrew v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 17-2137, 3rd Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1672).
CINCINNATI — A claim alleging that a disability insurer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it offset a plan participant’s disability benefits was properly dismissed because the claim arose under the disability plan and the claimant was required to administratively exhaust the plan’s remedies or plead futility, neither of which the claimant did, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Jan. 23 (Oliver H. Barber III, et al. v. Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., No. 17-5588, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1560).
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Noting that an arbitrary and capricious standard of review applies in a disability benefits dispute based on a district court’s prior decision, an Indiana federal judge on Jan. 17 affirmed the disability insurer’s denial of benefits on the basis that there is rational support for the insurer’s denial of benefits (Donald Fessenden v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-370, N.D. Ind., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7754).
BOSTON — The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 18 affirmed a district court’s ruling that a disability claimant is entitled to disability benefits but vacated the lower court’s calculation of attorney fees and prejudgment interest awarded to the claimant after determining that the court’s downward adjustment in the attorney fee award was not appropriate (Diahann L. Gross v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Nos. 16-2002, 16-1958, 1st Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1190).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 9 refused to reconsider its ruling that a disability plan administrator did not abuse its discretion in offsetting a claimant’s long-term disability (LTD) benefits to account for Social Security disability income (SSDI) benefits that she receives for her dependents (Susan Rene Jones v. Life Insurance Company of North America, et al., No. 16-16172, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 565).