SMDA filed a lawsuit against Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (LLAC) after it denied a claim for LTD benefits filed by an employee of DTE energy who had significant orthopedic back problems. The claim was governed by ERISA since it was a group plan provided through the employer. Despite the fact that the client submitted significant documentation of her back problems including multiple objective tests (x-ray and MRI’s) demonstrating the source of her back pain LLAC denied her claim based on several paper reviews performed by doctors hired through an expert witness service frequently used by the insurance company.

The Court rejected the insurer’s argument that the client had failed to provide objective evidence of her claim noting that pain is subjective and not susceptible to measurement and there was ample objective evidence of her medical condition which is likely to result in pain.

The Court utilized a De Novo standard of review rejecting Defendant’s argument that the Michigan ban on discretionary clauses was inapplicable. A link to the decision can be found here.This case provides a good example of the importance of creating a good administrative record for the Court’s review. The judge ordered LLAC to pay all of the past due benefits plus interest, costs and attorney fees.