A recent ruling won by DeBofsky, Sherman & Casciari, Curtis v. Hartford Life & Acc.Ins.Co., 2014 WL 485233 (N.D.Ill. August 20, 2014) illustrates the importance of considering the combined impact of more than one medical condition in determining disability. Cindy Curtis, a former operating room nurse at Lurie Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, became disabled in 2007 due to musculoskeletal impairments of the back, knees and shoulders suffered in car accidents, along with fibromyalgia and myofascial pain throughout her body. She filed a claim for long-term disability insurance with Hartford, which provided group disability coverage through her employer. Hartford approved the claim and paid benefits under the own occupation definition of disability that covered the first 24 months of payments. However, two years later Hartford discontinued Curtis's benefits, finding that she did not meet the "any occupation" definition of disability that became effective on that date. In the key portion of the ruling, the court emphasized that "even if none of her impairments in isolation necessarily compel a finding in [Curtis's] favor," the co-morbidity of her impairments had to be considered in combination in assessing disability.
Disability is not always based on a single medical condition. Many individuals suffer from multiple impairments; and while no single condition may be disabling, the combined co-morbidity of disparate impairments justify an entitlement to disability benefits. That was the lesson taught by Curtis v. Hartford Life & Acc.Ins.Co. 2014 WL 4185233 (N.D.Ill. August 20, 2014) (attached) which involved Cindy Curtis, a former operating room nurse at Lurie Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who became disabled in 2007 due to injuries to her back, knees and shoulders, resulting in arthritis, fibromyalgia and myofascial pain throughout her body. Although Curtis received two years of benefit payments after Hartford determined that she could not perform the material duties of her regular occupation, benefits were discontinued thereafter because the standard for continued payment required her to show an inability to perform the duties of any occupation she was capable of performing based on her education, training and experience and which paid a salary commensurate with her pre-disability earnings. The court overturned Hartford's determination.