A recent DeBofsky, Sherman & Casciari victory, Cheney v. Standard Ins.Co., 2014 WL 4259861 (N.D.Ill. August 28, 2014) illustrates the concept of being disabled while still working and thus qualifying for disability insurance benefits. The plaintiff, Carole Cheney, was a non-equity partner at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, LLP who specialized in appellate and commercial litigation. After struggling with neck and back pain for years and receiving workplace ergonomic accommodations that ultimately failed to enable her to keep working in the office, Cheney began working from home most days beginning in 2003. Ultimately, though, she had to stop working after December 19, 2011; and she took an approved leave of absence from her law firm beginning January 3, 2012 to pursue treatment for her back pain, ultimately undergoing major spine surgery a few months later. Although Cheney's disability insurer, Standard Insurance Company, maintained that Cheney's coverage ended when she ceased working, the court ruled otherwise based on the policy language, which continues coverage after the cessation of active work during a leave of absence. Thus, Cheney qualified for benefits even though her date of disability did not commence until shortly before she underwent surgery.
Can you be working and disabled at the same time? That was the question answered in Mirocha v. Metro.Life Ins.Co., 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 98025 (N.D.Ill. July 18, 2014), which found that even though the plaintiff, Joseph Mirocha, had been discharged from his position as an electrical supervisor at Palos Community Hospital in the Chicago suburbs, he was disabled even though he worked up until the date of discharge. The court flatly rejected MetLife's main argument that Mirocha did not suffer a loss of income prior to his disability date; and found: "MetLife's contention in its summary judgment papers that Mirocha does not qualify because he earned 100% of his Predisability Earnings for one week after the date he claims disability borders on the frivolous."