Two different lawsuits were recently filed in California and Alabama Federal Court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against the Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston. In both cases, it is alleged that Liberty improperly denied both plaintiffs their claims for long-term disability (LTD) benefits.
The California Liberty Case
In Cindy P. Vs Liberty Life, the plaintiff through a disability attorney filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiff was employed as an account representative by Yellow Book USA, Inc., which established and maintained the employee welfare benefit plan that the Plaintiff participated in. This occupation required the ability to sell yellow page and Internet advertising to businesses, as well as prepare accounts documents and collect on past due accounts
As of October 30, 2009, Plaintiff was unable to continue her duties as account representative due to her declining health. She consulted with a doctor on or about October 23, 2009 about her increasing health problems, leading to a diagnosis of suffering from “insomnia, severe psychomotor retardation, anhedonia, and irregular periods.” A further diagnosis on or about October 30, 2009 led to a further diagnosis of “depression, insomnia, irregular periods, work-related stress, left neck discomfort, and ongoing low back disability.”
Cervical and Lumbar MRIs were performed in early November, leading to diagnoses of disc protrusions, disc bulging, and moderate degenerative disc disease. Subsequent follow-ups showed continuing pain from these conditions, and eventually, the presence of degenerative arthritis and mild sclerosis in Plaintiff’s right foot.
In June 2010, Plaintiff consulted with a second physician who confirmed disease being present in both the cervical spine and the lumbar spine.
On or about August 20, 2010, Liberty denied Plaintiff’s claim for Short-Term Disability benefits beyond December 17, 2009. Plaintiff underwent three steroid injections between October and November 2010, then requested an appeal review on or about December 13, 2010. Plaintiff also returned to her physicians for injections into the cervical and lumbar spine in order to avoid invasive back surgery on or about February 9, 2011.
On or about April 5, 2011, Liberty again denied Plaintiff’s appeal of both short- and long-term disability benefits. Plaintiff filed her lawsuit claiming that Liberty had capriciously denied her claim to ERISA benefits.
The Alabama Liberty Case
In Lori C. Vs Liberty Life, the lawsuit was filed at the Northern District Court of Alabama Middle District by an Alabama disability attorney. The plaintiff in this case was an employee for Yellow Book USA, Inc. (Yellow Book), who was the sponsor of an ERISA Disability Plan, under which the Plaintiff was covered due to her employment at Yellow Book. Plaintiff became disabled on or about February 16, 2009, preventing her from fulfilling her duties as an account representative. Plaintiff applied for disability benefits and began receiving payments on August 16, 2009, but on April 9, 2010, Liberty improperly found that Plaintiff no longer met the Plan definition of disability and ceased making her long-term disability benefit payments. Despite numerous letters from her therapist and treating physician, as well as a favorable decision from the Social Security Administration, Liberty denied all appeals and issued a final denial letter on June 30, 2010. The Plaintiff’s lawsuit claims that Liberty acted in their own pecuniary interests in denying Plaintiff’s claim to long-term ERISA disability benefits.
Relief Sought in the Lawsuits
In both of the aforementioned cases, Plaintiffs seek the following relief:
- A declaration that the plaintiffs are entitled to all future LTD benefits under their respective plans.
- All benefits that have not been paid to be paid with interest.
- Full reimbursement for attorney fees and costs.
- All other relief that the court deems just and proper.