Employees of Citizens Financial Group, Santander Holdings, and Performance Food Group Sue Liberty Life For Denying Disability Benefits

Three Plaintiffs filed lawsuits in the Federal Courts of Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Arkansas against Liberty Life Assurance Company Of Boston (Liberty) for the improper denial of long-term disability benefits. All three cases allege that Liberty wrongfully withheld the payment of long-term disability benefits as defined by their respective policies.

The Rhode Island Case

In Kenneth H. Vs Liberty Life Assurance Company Of Boston, the Plaintiff was employed by Citizens Financial Group, Inc. (Citizens), thereby making Plaintiff eligible to be covered under Citizens’ Group Disability Income Policy Plan. This plan was fully insured by Liberty.

In 2009, Plaintiff became disabled. According to the terms of the Plan, Plaintiff was eligible for disability benefits, which Liberty began paying to the Plaintiff each month. On or about October 14, 2010, Liberty reviewed Plaintiff’s eligibility and determined that he no longer qualified for disability benefits according to the terms of the policy.

Plaintiff filed an appeal of this decision, but via letter dated June 8, 2011, Liberty denied this appeal. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies, leading to the filing of this lawsuit against Liberty.

The New Jersey Case

In Joseph S. Vs. Liberty Life Assurance Company Of Boston, Plaintiff was employed as a Retail Investment Services Representative with Santander Holdings USA, Incorporated (Santander). This employment entitled the Plaintiff to be covered by the short-term and long-term disability plans as provided by Santander, both of which were administered and/or issued by Liberty.

Plaintiff was forced to cease working on October 5, 2010 due to functional physical and cognitive limitations caused by severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and other impairments. Plaintiff filed a claim for STD benefits, which were paid from November 5, 2010 through February 5, 2011 by Liberty. As recommended by Liberty, Plaintiff also filed a claim with the Social Security Administration, which approved his claim based upon a diagnosis of “inflammatory arthritis” and the inability to engage in “any substantial activity.”

Despite the fact that the Plaintiff’s condition had not improved, Liberty terminated future STD benefits and denied LTD benefits on March 1, 2011 based on the claim that the medical evidence did not prove that the Plaintiff qualified for disability benefits based on the terms within the policy.

On August 19, 2011, Plaintiff filed an appeal of this denial. Plaintiff included reports from a rheumatologist, internist, and psychologist to prove his claim that disability benefits should be provided. However, on November 10, 2011, Liberty denied Plaintiff’s appeal. Plaintiff has now exhausted all administrative appeals, leading to the filing of this lawsuit against Liberty.

The Arkansas Case

In the case of Deon H. Vs. Liberty Life Assurance Company Of Boston, Plaintiff was employed full-time by Performance Food Group, Inc. (Performance) until September 13, 2006, when he stopped working due to sickness or injury. Due to his employment, Plaintiff was covered under an employee welfare benefit plan provided by Performance and administered and insured by Liberty.

Plaintiff filed an application for benefits under the disability terms of the Plan, which Liberty approved on July 20, 2006. Liberty began making payments on September 13, 2006. However, Liberty informed Plaintiff on August 27, 2007 that Plaintiff no longer met the Plan’s definition of disability, leading to the termination of his disability benefits. Plaintiff supplied additional medical documentation, leading to Liberty reopening his claim and reinstating his benefits back to August 22, 2007.

On March 11, 2010, Liberty again claimed that the Plaintiff did not meet the Plan’s disability definition and again ceased disability payments. Plaintiff filed an appeal of this denial, but Liberty denied this appeal. Plaintiff again filed another appeal, but on October 29, 2010, Liberty issued a final denial of Plaintiff’s last appeal. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative appeals, leading to the filing of this lawsuit against Liberty.

Relief Sought By Plaintiffs Against Liberty

In the aforementioned cases, the Plaintiffs seek the following relief from Liberty:

  • That Liberty pay all disability benefits that the Plaintiffs are entitled to, including all prejudgment interest.
  • That Liberty continue to pay all disability benefits of Plaintiffs as long as they remain eligible under the terms of their respective Plans.
  • That Liberty pay the cost of all attorney fees and court costs.
  • That Liberty provide all other relief that the Court rules to be just and proper.