Unum ordered to pay disability benefits to attorney suffering from sick building syndrome

Pamela A. Ray, an attorney, was insured under a UNUM disability policy. A Denver trial court ruled recently ruled in her favor that working in a large office building was a material duty of a disability claimant’s occupation as an attorney specializing in major real estate, oil and gas and mining transactions. The court determined that UNUM Life insurance Company of America’s denial of benefits was arbitrary and capricious.

On appeal the 10th Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions for the District Court to apply the de novo standard of review and to consider new evidence. In affirming the Circuit court ruled that the District court did not err in finding that working in a large office building environment was material duty of the plaintiff’s occupation. The majority noted that working from home was not an effective alternative and that her practice was not easily transferable to another firm. Even if the plaintiff could find equivalent work it would most likely be located in a large office building environment, therefore she is totally disabled.

See Pamela A. Ray v. UNUM Life Insurance Company of America, Nos. 05-1284, 05-1420, 10th Cir,; 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 7234).

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