Robin Plummer, a pharmacist for Kmart Corporation, was insured under the company’s group disability plan administered by Continental Insurance Company. In 2003, Hartford Life Insurance Company took over administration of the plan.

Ms. Plummer’s back problems began in 1998 and resulted in anterior and posterior fusion surgery. In 1999, Ms. Plummer began receiving long –term disability benefits. In 2004, Hartford had Dr. Klein examine Ms. Plummer who concluded that she could perform a sedentary job. Shortly after the evaluation, Hartford sent Dr. Klein video surveillance of Ms. Plummer which showed her driving for 30 minutes, shopping in a department store, and carrying her grandchild. After viewing the surveillance tapes, Dr. Klein issued an addendum to his report stating that Ms. Plummer could perform light-duty work and lift up to 25 pounds. Based on Dr. Klein’s report, Hartford terminated Ms. Plummer’s benefits. Ms. Plummer filed suit seeking benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

U.S. Judge Thomas M. Rose of the Southern District of Ohio found that Hartford’s termination of benefits to a claimant with chronic back pain was unreasonable. Judge Rose held that the record supports that Ms. Plummer was unable to return to her job as a pharmacist. The judge said that Dr. Klein’s independent medical exam was flawed since he “initially examined Plummer and determined that she was in the sedentary job classification and then changed his opinion based totally upon videos which included observance of Plummer for a total of approximately 13 minutes.” Furthermore, Judge Rose noted that despite the activities in the video surveillance, Hartford’s doctor could not determine if Ms. Plummer “was experiencing pain”. Summary judgment was granted to Ms. Plummer finding that she was entitled to disability benefits under her plan.

Robin Plummer v. The Hartford Life Insurance Co., No. 3:06cv00094, S.D. Ohio; 2007 U.S. Dist.

About the author: Gregory Michael Dell is an attorney and managing partner of the disability income division of Attorneys Dell & Schaefer. Mr. Dell and his team of lawyers have assisted thousands of long-term disability claimants with their claims against every major disability insurance company. To request a free legal consultation call 800-411-9085.