Yet another court has found that CIGNA’s terminating long term disability (“LTD”) benefits was so patently without merit that interest and attorney’s fees were awarded. CIGNA’s wrongful LTD termination and denials have become so rampant that ABC News’ Good Morning America did an expose on it. http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4724275
The facts of Gordon v. Northwest Airlines, Inc. Long-Term Disability Income Plan, which was decided a couple of weeks ago, mirror those of Alfano v. CIGNA Life Ins. Co. of New York, the case that I won a couple of months earlier. Gordon highlighted that this was not the first case where CIGNA mischaracterized medical records and erroneously asserted that a claimant’s doctor supported the claimant’s ability to sedentary work. Gordon is yet another example of CIGNA’s history of biased claims administration that, under the Supreme Court’s Metlife v. Glenn decision, requires ruling in favor of LTD claimants in closer cases.
In both Alfano and Gordon, CIGNA asked the treating doctors to complete a Physical Abilities Assessment (“PAA”), and each doctor concluded the claimant was limited to sitting less than 2.5 hours during an 8 hour day. Gordon declared that CIGNA’s conclusion that the PAA showed Gordon could do sedentary work was “manifestly false” and based “on an obvious misinterpretation,” and “simply mischaracterized” the PAA. Gordon explained that “Common sense dictates that that someone who cannot walk, sit, or stand more than 2.5 hours per day cannot do sedentary work.”
Similarly, in both Alfano and Gordon, CIGNA terminated LTD benefits based upon transferable skill analysis (“TSA”) that was based on the PAA. Gordon held that “the TSA does not explain how Gordon can do sedentary or light-duty work if he is limited to occasional sitting, standing and walking.”
Gordon ruled the claimant was entitled to interest and attorney fees because CIGNA’s “behavior toward Gordon in this case was not that of a fiduciary acting in his interests and the interests of plan participants. Rather, [CIGNA] acted like a company that first decided to deny Gordon’s claim and then went looking for evidence to justify that decision. CIGNA “egregiously mischaracterized the PAA, both internally and to Gordon, to support its conclusion that Gordon could do sedentary work.” Moreover, Gordon found that the CIGNA’s medical review “were so cursory as to amount to mere rubber stamping.” Once again, those are the same allegations that the claimant made in Alfano that the court accepted.
CIGNA was required to pay attorney fees because, “The evidence in the record is overwhelming that Gordon is incapable of earning a living. Rather than view the record through the eyes of a fiduciary, [CIGNA] bent over backwards to find an excuse-any excuse-to deny benefits to Gordon.” Gordon is yet another example that illustrates CIGNA’s practice and pattern of knowingly and wrongfully terminating LTD benefits. The Court awarded attorney’s fees because it held that by relying on the PAA and TSA to conclude that Gordon could work, CIGNA “acted not as a fiduciary, but as an adversary.”Previous Next
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