An ERISA disability lawsuit was filed against the Liberty Life Assurance Company, this time in Federal Court in the Middle District of Florida. Andrea Medders was forced to file suit after her administrative appeals were denied and Liberty Life, also known as Liberty Mutual refused to pay her long term disability benefits.
In the suit, Ms. Medder’s tampa disability attorneys argues that Liberty Life did not afford her with a full and fair review of her disability claim and utilized an unreasonable claims handling process. Additionally, Ms. Medder’s tampa disability lawyers also allege that a serious conflict of interest exists for Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual makes the final decision to approve or deny claims under the policy. If the claim is approved, Liberty Mutual is then responsible for paying claimants, such as Ms. Medders, the benefits they are due. This creates a conflict for Liberty Mutual between its duties to Ms. Medders as an ERISA fiduciary and its duties to its shareholders as a for-profit corporation.
Lastly, Ms. Medders argues that the Court should allow her to present evidence of her disability under the de novo standard instead of the “abuse of discretion” standard. In ERISA cases, the default standard of review is “de novo” unless the governing disability policy grants discretion to the insurance carrier. It is very rare to see employer provided disability insurance policies that do not grant this discretion to the carrier, thus most ERISA cases tend to be subject to judicial reviews that only allow the court to determine if the carrier abused its discretion. If the abuse of discretion standard is used, although there may be sufficient evidence to support a finding of disability, the court will uphold the carrier’s decision to deny if there is a reasonable explanation for the denial. If the court is allowed to use the “de novo” standard, the court is can review the decision with a more critical eye. The Court then has the right to look at the evidence and evaluate whether the carrier’s decision was right, not just reasonable.
With this lawsuit, Ms. Medders is seeking a judgment for the disability benefits that she is due pursuant to the contract, plus interest, costs and attorney fees. Disability Attorneys Dell & Schaefer are not representing Ms. Medders in this lawsuit.