Ward v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co.

DeBofsky Law successfully represented Christine Ward in winning her case seeking payment of disability benefits on account of long Covid against Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in favor of Ward, finding that Reliance Standard had abused its discretion in terminating her long-term disability (LTD) benefits.

Case Overview:

  • Plaintiff: Christine Ward
  • Defendant: Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company
  • Court: United States District Court for the District of Maryland
  • Case Number: Civil No. SAG-23-2147
  • Judgment Date: June 21, 2024

Case Summary: Christine Ward, a Senior Principal Health Systems Engineer at the MITRE Corporation who designed and implemented the installation of highly complex medical benefits claim processing software, was granted LTD benefits after being diagnosed with post-acute COVID syndrome, leading to severe chronic migraines, fatigue, and cognitive impairments. Despite overwhelming evidentiary support for Ward’s disability benefit claim, Reliance Standard terminated her benefits, citing a lack of clinical evidence of continued cognitive impairment.

Court Findings:

  1. Abuse of Discretion: The court ruled that Reliance Standard’s decision to deny Ward’s LTD benefits lacked substantial evidence, particularly regarding her cognitive impairments.
  2. Inadequate Evaluation: The court found that Reliance Standard failed to adequately consider the medical evidence of Ward’s cognitive dysfunction and relied on flawed assessments.
  3. Logical flaw: The court found that Reliance Standard’s decision was based on a logical flaw since it only considered the physical requirements of Ward’s position and failed to address the highly cognitive nature of the occupation.
  4. Remand for Further Proceedings: The court remanded the case to Reliance Standard for further proceedings consistent with the court’s findings, retaining jurisdiction for any future disputes.

Implications: This decision underscores the importance of thorough evaluations by insurers in disability claims, the need to address a disability claimant’s cognitive limitations in addition to physical limitations, and highlights DeBofsky Law’s expertise in complex ERISA and disability insurance litigation. The firm’s diligent advocacy ensured that Ward’s rights were upheld and that she received a fair and comprehensive review of her disability claim.

To read the full judgment, download the PDF here.