Prior to her disability Hadar Meiri was Vice President, Human Experience Strategy Director for MediaVest USA, earning an annual salary of $165,000. In July 2014 she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer for which she underwent a total thyroidectomy. She had also had a history of Hashimoto’s Thyroditis and Hypothroidism. Following her surgery she continued experiencing fatigue and weakness. She also developed symptoms of brain fog, poor memory, fatigue, and poor focus.
Meiri submitted a short-term disability claim to Hartford on account of her inability to perform the “Material and Substantial Duties” of her occupation as a VP, which required a high level of intellectual skill and concentration. Hartford approved and paid her short-term disability claim through her post-surgery recovery. Meiri’s condition did not improve following short-term disability and she was forced to remain out of work and apply for long-term disability also provided by Hartford. Hartford informed Meiri that “receipt of short-term disability benefits does not necessarily mean that you will be eligible to receive long-term disability benefits.” All the while Meiri continued treating with a team of physicians, each specialized to address the different symptoms and conditions she was experiencing.
After conducting medical paper reviews by three different physicians, Hartford denied Meiri’s long-term disability claim. Each of Hartford’s paid physicians essentially reached the same conclusion, that Meiri did not suffer physical or cognitive limitations which would impair her from working unrestricted eight hours a day, five days a week.
After unsuccessfully appealing Hartford’s adverse decision Meiri was forced to file a lawsuit to recover disability benefits under ERISA in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
After both Meiri and Hartford submitted their motions for summary judgment, the U.S. District Court found in favor of Meiri and against Hartford. The Court found that although there were notable issues the evidence of cognitive testing supported Meiri. In addition, despite Hartford’s contentions, it had not presented evidence that Meiri’s doctors did not affirmatively support her disability, that they had encouraged her to return to work or documented a belief that she could work.
Another significant issue which swayed the Court was that medical reviews conducted by Hartford’s peer reviews physician suffered from deficiency that none of its physicians had examined Meire despite having the ability to. Lastly, in citing to another disability case from the same district, Sabatino v. Liberty Life Asssurance Co. of Bos., 286 F. Supp. 2d 1222 (N.D. Cal. 2003), the Court held that “simply being able to sit for 8 hours and having sedentary functional capabilities does not necessarily enable one to work in an occupation that requires careful thought and concentration.
The Court correctly concluded that Meiri had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that she was disabled under the terms of the Hartford Plan.
This case was not handled by our office, but we think it can be beneficial to those struggling to obtain long-term disability benefits. If you have any questions about your own disability claim, contact one of our attorneys at Dell & Schaefer for a free case evaluation.