Court Sides with Employer in Long-Term Disability Appeal

A appellate court has upheld an employer’s decision to deny an injured North Carolina woman long-term disability benefits.

According to United States Court of Appeals Third Circuit documents, Luciana Baker was denied benefits through her employer’s long-term disability benefits program, which was run by The Hartford Life Insurance Company. Baker contested the program’s determination in federal court. The District Court concluded that the decision of the claims administrator for the program was not arbitrary or capricious. The court granted summary judgement in favor of Baker’s employer. This week appellate court judges affirmed that decision.

Baker was an employee of Bloomberg, L.P. Most of her job was spent at her desk. She began to experience back pain in early 2007 and she took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. She applied for and received short-term disability benefits on account of “chronic lower back pain and disc disease with acute exacerbation.” Baker’s physician placed her on a strengthening and stabilization exercise program.

Baker’s condition improved under the exercise regimen. Her doctor advised her, however, that she should not return to work if her position required “prolonged sitting.” Baker then filed an application for long-term disability benefits, which were available to employees who participated in Bloomberg’s ERISA-compliant Group Long-Term Disability Insurance Plan.

Baker’s application  was denied. The company produced a Physical Demands Analysis regarding Baker’s position. The document noted that Baker’s “typical work day entailed seven (7) hours of sitting, a half-an-hour of standing (.5) total, and a half-an-hour of walking (.5).” The document further indicated that Baker could alternate sitting and standing as needed. For this reason, Baker’s application for long-term disability benefits was denied. Hartford concluded that she was able to perform the “essential duties” of her position.

If your long-term disability claim has been denied, please contact an Indiana long-term disability appeals attorneys of the Hankey Law Office, by calling (800) 520-3633.