Unmasked Lawyer Wins Disability Benefits Battle Against Unum

 


• Lawyer will have another chance to seek disability benefits from Unum

• Judge previously denied lawyer’s request to sue for benefits anonymously


A former attorney with Dickstein Shapiro LLP may be entitled to disability benefits after convincing a federal judge that Unum Life Insurance Co. of America mishandled her claim.

Unum gave somewhat different explanations when it denied her initial claim for benefits and her subsequent appeal, the judge said March 12. Because of this shift, the attorney didn’t have an opportunity to fully respond to Unum’s final reason for denying benefits, the judge said. To remedy this error, the judge gave the attorney an opportunity to present more evidence that she was disabled and entitled to benefits.

The decision comes one month after the judge denied the attorney’s request to proceed anonymously in her case against Unum. The lawyer said she may later have trouble finding work in the legal field if potential employers can learn about her disability, but the judge ordered her to use her real name after finding this fear wasn’t severe enough to justify granting anonymity. Similarly, a federal judge in California in 2016 denied anonymity to a law firm partner who feared that “certain attorneys” would delve into his case to learn about his personal life and his firm’s business.

Judge Marco A. Hernandez of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon wrote the decision.

Harrang Long Gary Rudnick PC represented the attorney. Kilmer Voorhees & Laurick PC represented Unum.

The case is Gary v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am., 2018 BL 84854, D. Or., No. 3:17-cv-01414-HZ, order partly granting summary judgment to plaintiff 3/12/18.