Recently, three federal lawsuits were filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against the Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston. In all three cases that were filed through the respective plaintiffs’ disability attorney, Liberty was alleged to have improperly denied the plaintiffs their claims for disability (LTD) benefits.
The First Case
A DirectTV Employee, through an Oklahoma disability attorney, filed an ERISA lawsuit in the District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. The plaintiff was employed as a Customer Service Representative for DirectTV Group, Inc. While working for DirectTV, the plaintiff participated in a disability insurance plan provided by Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston to its employees. Liberty was the plan administrator for the disability insurance plan.
The plaintiff received injury to her lumbar and cervical spine; due to chronic pain and restrictions from that injury, she ceased working at DirectTV on or about July 16, 2010. In July 2010, Plaintiff initiated a claim for short-term disability benefits and received them. After surgery, Plaintiff returned to work at DirectTV on a part-time basis, with her payments being reduced accordingly.
By December 2010, subsequent medical treatment was needed and she was scheduled for decompression and fusion surgery. Liberty upgraded her claim to “severe case management” and approved continued payment of STD benefits through the STD period. Liberty also transferred the claim to a long-term disability (LTD) manager.
However, the surgery didn’t take place because Blue Cross and Blue Shield refused to pay for the surgery. Plaintiff ceased all part-time work on or about January 2, 2011 due to lingering pain. By February 9, 2011, a Liberty case manager recommended the denial of her LTD claim based on an own occupation analysis. A letter was sent to Plaintiff on February 10, 2011 indicating this denial.
Plaintiff appealed Liberty’s decision on April 14, 2011, submitting additional information and records to prove she was totally disabled according to the Plan. Despite reviewing her file, Liberty denied her claim again on May 27, 2011. Exhausting her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit.
The Second Case
An employee of United Technologies Corporation filed an ERISA lawsuit in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas with the help of a disability attorney. The plaintiff in this case was provided with a LTD coverage plan that was fully insured by Liberty. Liberty was also the Claims Administrator for the plan. In this case, it was alleged that Liberty had an inherent conflict of interest and that the Plan did not give the Plan Administrator “discretion” to make the said decisions within the plain language in the Plan, leading to the denial of the plaintiff’s claim for LTD benefits, leading to the filing of this lawsuit.
The Third Case
The final case was filed by a disability attorney at the District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, it was alleged that Liberty had unjustly denied the plaintiff’s claim for LTD benefits, violating the terms of the Plan and the provisions of ERISA.
Relief Sought in the Lawsuits
In the previously mentioned cases, the relief sought by the plaintiffs from Liberty in their lawsuits comprises of:
- A declaration that the plaintiffs are entitled to LTD benefits under their respective plans
- Benefits that have not been paid to be paid with interest
- An award of attorney’s fees and costs
- Any other relief that the court deems just