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Life Insurance Company Of North America denies disability benefits and battles claimant for 4.5 years in Federal Court

LINA should be embarrassed and show some respect for a former payroll clerk that had no ability to work due to numerous medical conditions. After litigating for more 4.5 years since her wrongful denial of disability benefits, Ms. Dupree finally received a ruling in her favor from the United States Court of Appeal. LINA fought this disability claim until there were no more courts left for them to appeal to. While, Ms. Dupree eventually won her disability benefits, it is sad that she had to battle for 4.5 years without any payment from LINA. LINA essentially left Ms. Dupree out in the cold. Unfortunately, Dupree’s only remedy is payment of her benefits, interest and attorney fees. This case is a prime example of the wrongful conduct by LINA and the exact reason that punitive damages should be allowed.

The Court of Appeal recently rendered its opinion in the case of Rebecca Dupree v Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA). The plaintiff in this case won judgment against LINA in her challenge with LINA’s denial of her claim for long term disability benefits. LINA appealed against the decisions of the District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Lets take a look at the reasoning of the Appellate Court.

The Facts of the Case Against LINA also known as Cigna Life Insurance Company

The plaintiff Rebecca Dupree was working as a payroll clerk with the Railroad Friction Products Corporation. On October 16th 2006, due to suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, the plaintiff filed a claim for long term disability benefits with LINA. The plaintiff, in support of her claim, submitted nearly 400 pages of documents to LINA. Nevertheless, LINA denied the plaintiff’s claim for long term disability benefits on November 10th 2006 on the ground that there is a lack of medical evidence of her disability.

The Appeals to LINA

Subsequently on May 7th 2007, the plaintiff appealed to LINA’s decision to deny her claim for long term disability benefit. In her appeal, the plaintiff again submitted additional documentation and testimonials from her attending physicians attesting to her worsening medical condition. The plaintiff’s former employer also submitted a testimonial stating that the plaintiff is “one of the most valuable employees” that had turned to a person “sitting at her desk trying valiantly to work with hands trembling so badly that she could hardly hold a pencil”. After being reviewed by LINA’s in-house physician, the in-house physician concluded that the additional documentation showed “minimal findings” supporting the plaintiff’s claim and recommended rejection of the appeal instead.

Hence on May 31st 2007, LINA upheld its prior decision to deny the plaintiff’s claim for long term disability benefits. The plaintiff made a second appeal to LINA on November 26th 2007. Although supposedly reviewed by an independent board certified rheumatology consultant that was engaged by LINA, the appeal was also rejected on February 15th 2008 on the ground that plaintiff’s doctor’s medical opinions were “not supported”.

The District Court’s Judgment

Following the denial of the appeals, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against LINA to challenge LINA’s decision to deny her claim for disability benefits. On August 10th 2009, the District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and order LINA to:

Judicial Review by the Court of Appeal

LINA was not satisfied with the decision by the lower court and appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that the District Court:

The Opinion of the Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal denied LINA’s appeal and ruled that:

Note: The issue of pain was important as it materially prevented the plaintiff from returning to work. It goes to reason that because of the pain, the plaintiff was indeed disabled and was unable to return to work on a sedentary occupation. Her failure to return to work was not without justification.

With this line of reasoning, the District Court was able to find that LINA had abused its discretion by denying the plaintiff her claim for disability benefits. And because of this abuse of discretion, the District Court could rule for the award of disability benefits to the plaintiff.

Although generally, all administrative remedies must be exhausted before a lawsuit under ERISA can come before the Federal Court here, it was inherently obvious that LINA would also deny the plaintiff’s claim for long term disability benefits under the “any occupation” standard making her claim moot.

The District Court had arrived at the award of attorney fees by applying the “Quesinberry rule” correctly. Hence, the District Court did not exceed its discretion.

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FAQ

Do you help Cigna claimants nationwide?

We represent Cigna clients nationwide and we encourage you to contact us for a FREE immediate phone consultation with one of our experienced disability insurance attorneys.

Can you help with a Cigna disability insurance policy?

Our disability insurance lawyers help policy holders seeking short or long term disability insurance benefits from Cigna. We have helped thousands of disability insurance claimants nationwide with monthly disability benefits. With more than 40 years of disability insurance experience we have helped individuals in almost every occupation and we are familiar with the disability income policies offered by Cigna.

How do you help Cigna claimants?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a Cigna long term disability insurance policy from an insurance company or obtained short or long term disability insurance coverage as a benefit from their employer.

Our experienced lawyers can assist with Cigna:

  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Appeals of Disability Benefit Denials
  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Disability Benefit Lawsuits
  • Applying For Short or Long Term Disability Benefits
  • Daily Handling & Management of Your Disability Claim
  • Disability Insurance Lump-Sum Buyout or Settlement Negotiations

Do you work in my state?

Yes. We are a national disability insurance law firm that is available to represent you regardless of where you live in the United States. We have partner lawyers in every state and we have filed lawsuits in most federal courts nationwide. Our disability lawyers represent disability claimants at all stages of a claim for disability insurance benefits. There is nothing that our lawyers have not seen in the disability insurance world.

What are your fees?

Since we represent disability insurance claimants at different stages of a disability insurance claim we offer a variety of different fee options. We understand that claimants living on disability insurance benefits have a limited source of income; therefore we always try to work with the claimant to make our attorney fees as affordable as possible.

The three available fee options are a contingency fee agreement (no attorney fee or cost unless we make a recovery), hourly fee or fixed flat rate.

In every case we provide each client with a written fee agreement detailing the terms and conditions. We always offer a free initial phone consultation and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you in obtaining payment of your disability insurance benefits.

Do I have to come to your office to work with your law firm?

No. For purposes of efficiency and to reduce expenses for our clients we have found that 99% of our clients prefer to communicate via telephone, e-mail, fax, GoToMeeting.com sessions, or Skype. If you prefer an initial in-person meeting please let us know. A disability company will never require you to come to their office and similarly we are set up so that we handle your entire claim without the need for you to come to our office.

How can I contact you?

When you call us during normal business hours you will immediately speak with a disability attorney. We can be reached at 800-682-8331 or by email. Lawyer and staff must return all client calls same day. Client emails are usually replied to within the same business day and seem to be the preferred and most efficient method of communication for most clients.

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