Liberty Life faces disability benefit lawsuits in Florida and Maryland for denying disability benefits
Four individuals, include two Comcast employees, with the help of their disability attorneys have filed Federal Lawsuits against Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston for failing to pay long term disability benefits. Let’s take a closer look at each case.
Lisa C. and her disability lawyer filed a lawsuit against Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston in the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida Fort Lauderdale Division on August 11, 2011. A suit filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), Lisa C.’s lawsuit demands that Liberty Life supply Lisa C. with her long term disability benefits as stipulated in her employee insurance plan alleges that the insurer wrongfully denied her disability benefits. As an employee of Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Lisa C. was a “participant” in Elan’s Liberty Life Assurance Plan at the time of her application for disability benefits to Liberty Life.
According to the lawsuit, Liberty Life acts as both the “insurer of benefits . . . in the capacity of a plan administrator” and “as the decision maker and payor of plan benefits,” which creates a conflict of interest and a bias that affected Liberty Life’s determination of Lisa C.’s disability claim. In October 2006, Lisa C., while insured under Elan’s Liberty Life Disability Insurance Plan, was forced from her job due to a complex disability that includes post-traumatic epilepsy which causes Lisa C. to have seizures. Upon receipt of Lisa C.’s application for long term disability benefits, Liberty Life denied her claim, “contending [Lisa C.] was not disabled. Lisa C. properly appealed Liberty’s “adverse determination” and was denied. Having exhausted all administrative appeals, Lisa C. and her disability lawyer filed the subject lawsuit demanding that Liberty Life:
- Pay disability benefits to Lisa C.;
- Declare Lisa C. to be entitled to reinstatement of her long term disability plan and continue to pay her disability benefits under the terms of Liberty Life’s disability insurance plan;
- In the alternative to relief, order Liberty Life to remand Lisa C.’s claim back to the insurer for evaluation of any “new facts or submissions”;
- Pay all attorneys’ fees and court costs;
- Pay all pre- and post-judgment interest per ERISA standards; and
- Provide Lisa C. any other relief the Court “deems just and proper.”
An employee of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Celeste B., through her disability attorney, filed a lawsuit against Liberty Life Assurance Company in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Fort Lauderdale Division on July 27, 2011. As Associate Director of Admissions, Celeste B. ceased working on December 6, 2008 due to becoming totally disabled due to “bipolar disorder characterized by severe mood swings in which she cycles between depressive stages during which she is despondent, has a lack of motivation, has significant impairment in functionality, cannot maintain concentration and focus, experiences impediments in communicating and connecting with others, and suffers feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and sadness, and manic stages in which she experiences feelings of euphoria, unquenchable energy, a sense of invincibility, irrational behavior, flight of thought, and an inability to make reasonable decisions or maintain concentration.”
With sufficient information supporting her condition and its worsening, Celeste B. applied not only for her Liberty Life disability insurance but her Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits as required by her Liberty plan. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determined that Celeste B. is indeed disabled and unable to function in any occupation. As a result of her SSD award, Celeste B. was informed that she was to repay Liberty Life for the overage of her disability benefits, which Celeste B. complied with. After that, Liberty Life continued to deduct from Celeste B.’s disability payments and then completely terminated her benefits payments on August 23, 2010, claiming she was not disabled even in the face of overwhelming medical evidence to the contrary. At the time of the filing of this lawsuit, Celeste B.was owed eleven (11) months of disability payments.
Alleging that Liberty Life is in breach of its contract with her, Celeste B.’s attorney claims that the insurer’s termination of Celeste B. disability benefits is biased, based on blatant misrepresentation of the facts of Celeste B.’s claims, and that the denial was a financial conflict of interest where Liberty Life is concerned. Celeste B.’s lawyer also accuses the insurance company of failing to consistently apply the provisions of its disability insurance plans to other similar participants as well and fails to fully and fairly review claims. Consequently, Celeste B.and her attorney ask the Court to declare that:
- Celeste B. is disabled;
- Liberty Life is obligated to pay continuing disability benefits to Celeste B.;
- Liberty Life return “any and all other employee benefits and/or financial relief from any benefits” Celeste B. has lost or had to bear the costs of due to Liberty’s denial;
- Liberty reimburse Celeste B. for interest, costs, and attorney’s fees; and
- Allow Celeste B. to have the option of returning to the Court to try to get other declaratory relief later.
Dustin B. and his Maryland disability lawyer ask the United States District Court of Maryland to award Dustin B.:
- His long term disability benefits;
- Monetary judgment against Liberty for all “amounts due and owing”;
- Attorney’s fees; and
- Any other relief the Court finds appropriate.
A direct sales representative for Comcast, Dustin B. at age 32 ceased working in 2010 due to cervical radiculitis after undergoing cervical surgery in July. With ongoing symptoms and further corrective surgeries in his future, Dustin B. was awarded short term disability benefits and later applied for long term disability benefits. On January 25, 2010, Liberty Life denied Dustin B.’s claim, followed by a final denial letter on April 14, 2011 after Dustin B. appealed the decision. Having exhausted all his administrative appeals, Dustin B. hired a disability lawyer and filed this lawsuit.
Claiming that Liberty Life did not fairly and fully review his claim, Dustin B. and his attorney allege that the insurer unreasonably denied Dustin B. his disability benefit payments. The insurer conducted an occupational analysis of Dustin B. condition but failed to take into consideration Dustin B.’s physical limitations and restrictions or the side effects of the many medications he takes. Thus, Dustin B.’s attorney accuses the insurer of making an arbitrary, illegal, capricious, unreasonable, discriminatory and bad faith decision in its denial of Dustin B.’s disability benefits.
Comcast employee, Natalie M., was denied long term disability and her life insurance coverage due to the denial of her disability benefits by Liberty Life. An inbound call center representative/customer account executive, Natalie M. “has a long and well-documented history of spinal and shoulder pathologies.” Having had repeated and invasive surgical procedures and chronic pain, Natalie M. attempted to work but was forced to cease working on October 16, 2010 even after attempting to work on several previous occasions.
With benefits terminating on July 25, 2010 and all administrative appeals exhausted, Natalie M. and her disability lawyer filed this lawsuit against Liberty Life on August 1, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division. Natalie M. was declared disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) on April 29, 2011; and the SSA concluded that she had been disabled since June 2, 2009. Subsequently, Natalie M. sent this data to Liberty Life, but Liberty Life “would not entertain any further evidence supporting” Natalie M.’s disability. Consequently, Natalie M. and her disability attorney filed the subject lawsuit to get Natalie M.’s disability benefits, have her life insurance reinstated, continue to receive disability benefits as long as she is disabilities per the terms of her Liberty Life plan, and be reimbursed for all attorney’s fees, and Court costs.