Hartford ordered to pay disability benefits

Donald Holman, a maintenance technician for Tyson Foods Inc., was insured under Tyson’s group disability plan with Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co. In April, 2001, Mr. Holman began experiencing headaches and blurred vision. After a cranial MRI, Mr. Holman’s neurologist diagnosed him with a Chiari malformation. Mr. Holman’s neurologist stated he was disabled and Mr. Holman stopped working and filed a claim for long-term benefits. Hartford consulted their doctor who further confirmed Mr. Holman’s disability stating activities such as lifting, pushing, and pulling could cause further complications in Mr. Holman’s condition. Hartford initially approved Mr. Holman’s claim for benefits but later found he was not totally disabled and terminated benefits. Mr. Holman filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, seeking reinstatement of benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Judge Jimm Larry Hendren ruled that terminating benefits to a claimant suffering from a rare neurological condition was an abuse of discretion. Judge Hendren said Hartford had objective medical evidence of Mr. Holman’s condition and disregarded the opinion of his treating physicians. “Hartford’s failure was based on an almost total failure to investigate Holman’s claims” stated Judge Hendren and found Mr. Holman entitled to long-term disability benefits.

See Donald Holman v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co., No. 04-5305, W.D. Ark.; 2006 U.S. Dist..

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