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The Honorable Richard Jones in the District of Washington holds Hartford’s feet to the fire

The Honorable Richard Jones in the District of Washington holds Hartford’s feet to the fire with respect to the requirement to conduct employment analysis when performing an any gainful occupation review.

In O’Gorman v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Company, Judge Jones scolded Hartford for its blatant failure to actual find other occupations the Plaintiff could perform during its analysis of that very issue.  While Hartford tried to point the finger to its “reasonable medical review,” Judge Jones reminded Hartford that restrictions and limitations are the end of the analysis, but merely the beginning.  In this regard, Judge Jones stated as follows:

It is up to the Court, then, to determine not whether Plaintiff’s earnings exceed 60% of her Indexed Pre-disability Earnings, but rather whether Plaintiff is prevented from performing one or more essential duties of any occupation. The Court cannot make that determination on this record. The record is replete with information regarding Plaintiff’s physical limitations and the impact that her medical condition has on her ability to perform in the workplace. However, there is sparse vocational information from which the Court could adequately determine whether Plaintiff is capable of performing any occupation. There appears to be one Employability Analysis Report, dated August 28, 2015, determining that Plaintiff was capable of assuming a position as either a Training Representative or Research Assistant. The Report does not contain a thorough analysis, concluding only that: the claimant has the capacity and work experience to perform the sedentary/light skilled to semi-skilled occupations identified above[.] These occupations exist in reasonable numbers in the national economy, use worker traits and habits the claimant possesses, are obtainable on a part-time basis and are within her physical abilities. These findings are indicative that Ms. Inwood possesses the capabilities to perform these occupations with minimum training in tools and/or materials and is employable.

Further, the report does not give a survey of options from which the Court could feasibly determine whether Plaintiff is capable of performing the essential functions of any occupation. Plaintiff’s rehabilitation specialists have opined that she should not be working, but given the conclusory nature of Hartford’s Employability Report, the Court cannot conclude with an appropriate degree of certainty whether any occupation exists to accommodate Plaintiff’s limitations. HARTRCD 321, 325. In this de novo review, the Court does not afford Hartford any deference to its conclusion that Plaintiff is qualified to assume the roles of Training Representative and Research Assistant. See Perryman, 690 F.Supp.2d 917 at 942. Therefore, the Court denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment and remands to Hartford with instructions to perform a thorough employability analysis to determine whether, as of September 6, 2015, Plaintiff was disabled under the terms of the Plan and to develop the record accordingly. See Kowalski v. Farella, Braun & Martell, LLP, 2008 WL 5397511, at *15

O’Gorman is a well-reasoned decision by a Judge who required the complete analysis.
Here’s a link to the decision.

Andrew Davis