Our Client v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company
United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (2022)
Our client developed granulomatosis, a vascular disorder that caused them severe pain and weakened their immune system, forcing them to take medical leave from their job as a program manager at an insurance company. During this time, their employer cut their role, so they filed for disability benefits. After filing an initial claim, our client received short term benefits from Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company for six months. Hartford later denied our client’s claim for long term disability benefits, then denied them again when they appealed on their own, after which they hired us.
Under Hartford’s policy, someone is disabled if they are unable to perform essential duties of one’s occupation, which are defined as substantial, fundamental, inherent, and non-omittable tasks.
We sued, asking a court to overturn Hartford’s decision, arguing that Hartford failed to consider our client’s compromised immune system when denying them long term disability benefits.
When Hartford denied our client’s appeal, it determined that the only relevant essential duty of their occupation was sitting at a desk, something their in-house physicians believed they could do given some improvement in their pain levels. However, when evaluating our client’s claim, Hartford failed to consider their compromised immune system caused by their granulomatosis. Our client provided medical evidence from their physicians stating that they should work from home because of their weakened immune system, as it was unsafe for them to work in an office. Hartford attempted to discredit this information but failed to cite any conflicting medical evidence.
After we sued, the court ruled in our client’s favor, stating that, if sitting at a desk in an office is an essential duty of our client’s occupation, they are disabled under Hartford’s policy and should receive long-term benefits. The court determined that our client’s illness left them immunocompromised and forced to work from home–something Hartford failed to consider in their denial. A judge determined that Hartford’s argument was “too speculative” to credit. The case was remanded to Hartford, requiring Hartford to properly determine whether sitting at a desk in an office is an essential duty before reviewing our client’s claim for long-term disability benefits.