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Court upheld Standard’s decision to deny disability benefits

Carol Shepherd, a fork-lift operator for Daramic, was insured under the company’s group disability plan with Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company. In 2004, Ms. Shepherd had an anxiety attack at work and Daramic suspended her and required that she participate in anger management before returning to work. During her suspension, Ms. Shepherd was receiving treatment at Owensboro Medical Health System Outpatient Counseling Center where she was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety disorder.

Prior to her suspension, Ms. Shepherd worked the swing shift but when it was time to return to work she requested the day shift because her treating physician believed the sleep disturbances would aggravate her psychological conditions. When Daramic refused to give Ms. Shepherd the day shift her doctor said she could not return to work and Ms. Shepherd applied for long-term disability benefits.

Reliance denied Ms. Shepherd’s claim stating that she is not totally disabled and had their own reviewing psychiatrist evaluate her medical records. Reliance upheld its denial of benefits on appeal and Ms. Shepherd sued, seeking benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

After reviewing the case, U.S. Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. of the Western District of Kentucky found that Reliance’s decision to deny benefits was reasonably supported by Ms. Shepherd’s medical record. The judge rejected Ms. Shepherd’s claim that Reliance failed to conduct a personal psychological evaluation since the company’s psychiatrist “thoroughly reviewed Ms. Shepherd’s medical record and relied on the evidence therein to form his opinion.” Judge McKinley found that there was no competent medical proof in the record to support a disability claim.

See Carol Shepherd v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 4:06CV-83, W.D. Ky.; 2007 U.S. Dist..

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