May 13, 2009
Better AIDS treatments and prognosis mean disability insurer may terminate benefits, 7th Circuit rules
Charles Jenkins, a former employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, was forced to stop working in 1993 due to AIDS, and the following year he began receiving long-term disability benefits under a company insurance plan administered by Connecticut General Life. In 2004, CGL elected to take another look at the matter and decided, after review of Jenkins' medical condition, that Jenkins was capable of attempting sedenary employment. CGL cut off his benefits.
Jenkins sued under ERISA but lost in the district court. In a decision last week, the 7th Circuit affirmed, holding that CGL's decision met the minimal ERISA requirement that it have some “rational support in the record.” "That’s not to say the evidence compelled that decision" by CGL, the court noted in an opinion that tried to strike a sympathetic tone, "just that it permitted it."
The last two paragraphs of the decision are interesting:
But Jenkins fails to recognize what CGL (and the general population, it seems) thought HIV and AIDS meant in the early 1990s. That impression was that HIV (and certainly AIDS) brought rapid death. Thankfully, the prognosis has changed—in large measure due to new drugs—both for Jenkins and countless others. It was not “downright unreasonable” for CGLIC to shift its position along with that change when the medical evidence supported it.
(Sometimes the 7th Circuit's temporary links to opinions stop working. If so, case information can be found here.)
May 13, 2009 | Permalink
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