Hartford’s Life Insurance companies reliance on surveillance video to terminate benefits was appropriate

Citation: Plaintiff v. Hartford Life Ins. Co., No. 8:04-cv-1741-T-24TGW, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18681, (M.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2005).

Plaintiff was employed as a boatman for the Tampa Bay Pilots. He became disabled and unable to work due to hepatitis C, lumbar radiculopathy and failed back syndrome. Plaintiff began receiving long-term disability benefits in November 1996 until April 2003, when Hartford Life Insurance Company (hereinafter “Hartford”) discovered, through a seven-day video surveillance, evidence indicating plaintiff’s physical capabilities far exceeded the limitations that he described to Hartford’s interviewer and his treating physicians.

Specifically, Hartford found that the video surveillance showing plaintiff working on his boat, bending, climbing a ladder, lifting heavy objects and using a leaf blower directly contradicted plaintiff’s self proclaimed physical limitations such as an inability to perform activities in excess of an hour despite being on pain relievers, an inability to stand for periods longer than 10 to 15 minutes and an inability to carry anything heavier than a gallon of milk.

Plaintiff brought suit against Hartford seeking to reinstate his benefits. Plaintiff claimed entitlement to continued disability benefits because Hartford erroneously relied on limited medical records to reach its decision and that the disability surveillance video relied upon was irrelevant because it was taken during a period of unusually high activity because he was moving homes and was taking extra doses of pain medication.

The Florida court found that Hartford did not improperly render its decision based on limited medical records because five months before the termination of his benefits, plaintiff told Hartford that he had only two current treating physicians. Moreover, the court found that Hartford’s reliance on the surveillance video was proper because in this case, it was objective evidence that plaintiff’s physical capabilities exceeded his self-reported limitations, and as such, Hartford’s use of video surveillance was appropriate.

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