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Nyemaster Goode ERISA Group Obtains Favorable Judgment for Unum Life Insurance Company

March 8, 2011

On February 16, 2011, Nyemaster Goode obtained a favorable ruling on behalf of Unum Life Insurance company of America in an ERISA action.  Unum determined the plaintiff was mentally disabled and, per the terms of her ERISA plan, provided disability benefits for two years.  After the mental disability benefits expired, the plaintiff sued Unum claiming that she was physically disabled and therefore entitled to benefits until age 65.  The district court ruled that Unum's final decision was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.  The court also ruled in favor of Unum on its counterclaim for recovery of overpayments.
 
Of broader significance, the court's opinion contains a thoughtful analysis of an ERISA plan's ability to reduce disability benefits when a participant is also receiving social security payments.  The court ruled that the phrase "same disability"—a phrase common to disability plans—refers to the same time period, rather than the same diagnoses.   
 
Nyemaster Goode attorneys Michael Thrall and Ryan Koopmans represented Unum.  The district court's decision is available here.

Michael W. Thrall

 
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