Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Monday, December 16, 2013

Taking Women's Disability Claims Seriously

Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Heimeshoff v. Harford Ins.  A unanimous court upheld the rule of this particular contract that the statute of limitations runs three years from the date the proof of loss was due to be filed, rather than the usual rule of three years from final decision of denial.

On its face, as some have noted, this seems to be no big deal as who cares about the technicality of the length of time for filing an ERISA claim?  Well, women might care.  As in this case where the insurance company's failure to take a woman's disability claims seriously led to the protracted administrative delay that ultimately prevented her from suing. 

Julie Heimeshoff was a senior PR manager for Wal-Mart.  She filed for long-term disability benefits after being diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia.  The rheumatologist failed to reply to the insurance company's demand for information.  Hartford got it's own medical experts to say whe could perform her job because it was sedentary.  More appeals, more delay.

For more on the gendered nature of fibromyalgia claims, see Dara Purvis (Penn State), Clinical Evidence as Gendered: Social Security Disability Claims, Tex. J. Women & the Law.

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