United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Karin Reidy (Reidy) brought this suit against Unum Life
Insurance Company of America and The Squire Patton Boggs
Group Long Term Disability Plan (collectively
“Defendants”), seeking a declaration of
entitlement to disability benefits, payment of back-benefits
plus interest, and costs pursuant to the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.
(“ERISA”). Pending before the Court are
cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 35 & 38. The
issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to
Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED and Reidy's cross-motion is DENIED.
is a former employee of the law firm then known as Patton
Boggs, where she served as the Director of Professional
Development and Retention for the firm's Washington, D.C.
office until her termination in May 2014. While at Patton
Boggs, Reidy was a plan participant under a group benefits
plan established by Patton Boggs, the Squire Patton Boggs
Group Long Term Disability Plan (“the Plan”). ECF
No. 1 at ¶ 6; see also ECF No. 8. Defendant
Unum Life Insurance Company of America (“Unum”)
is the claims administrator and insurer of the Plan. ECF No.
1 at ¶ 7; see also ECF No. 6.
has received treatment for recurrent episodes of major
depression since 1987. See UA-CL-LTD-000042-45.
Around March 2014, Reidy's depression worsened, and she
took a leave of absence on the recommendation of her
employers, “because [Reidy] was looking and behaving in
a manner that raised concerns.” UA-CL-LTD-000688. Reidy was
approved for Short Term Disability (“STD”) leave
on April 7, 2014, for a period of three months, from April 7,
2014 through July 10, 2014. UA-CL-LTD000459. According to one
of Reidy's psychiatrists, Dr. Michael Silver (“Dr.
Silver”), Reidy's symptoms improved somewhat
following time away from work, but at the encouragement of
Patton Boggs' Human Resources department, Reidy decided
to continue full-time treatment through the end of her STD
leave. UA-CL-LTD000459. At or around May 30, 2014, Patton
Boggs merged with another law firm. Reidy's position was
eliminated, and she was subsequently terminated.
applied for Long Term Disability (“LTD”) and Life
Insurance Premium Waiver (“LPW”) benefits on
January 19, 2015. See UA-CL-LTD-000042-45. In her
application, Reidy identified her medical condition as
“major depression.” She further described her
symptoms as including “negative ruminations, confusion,
inability to function due to disorganized thoughts, constant
fear, zero confidence in self, uncontrollable crying,
uncontrollable negative thoughts, inability to concentrate,
” and “more.” UA-CL-LTD-00042-43. Reidy
listed her current medical treatment providers as two
psychiatrists, Dr. Silver and Dr. Kamal Jojodia (“Dr.
psychiatrists, employed by Unum, reviewed Reidy's claim:
Dr. Nicholas Kletti (“Dr. Kletti”), Dr. Stuart
Shipko (“Dr. Shipko”), with Dr. Kletti performing
initial review. Reidy's file was also examined by two
registered nurses, Rachelle Mack and Allyce Hawkes.
UA-CL-LTD-000408-11, UA-LWOP-000214-18; UA-CL-LTD-00507-10,
UA-CL-LWOP-000323-26. Defendants' review consisted of
telephone interviews of Reidy on February 16, 2015, and July
29, 2015, medical records provided by Dr. Silver
(psychiatrist), Dr. Jajodia (psychiatrist), and Reidy's
psychotherapist, Brian Corrado, and monitoring Reidy's
online activity, such as posting on job-search websites and
message boards. See, e.g. UA-CL-LTD-000538-546,
UA-CL-LTD-000647-52; UA-CL-LTD-000656-57, UA-CL-LTD-000675;
UA-CL-LTD-006667; UA-CL-LWOP-000342-53. Unum interviewed
Reidy's treating physicians, when possible. Mr. Corrado
did not answer Defendants' repeated efforts to obtain
additional details on Reidy's condition, despite
Reidy's authorizing release of medical records.
UA-CL-LTD-0000656-57, UA-CL-LTD-006667. Dr. Jajodia deferred
any opinion on Reidy's disability to her primary care
doctor, Dr. Jack Summer, who last treated Reidy in September
2014, before the relevant claims period. UA-CL-LTD-000545.
Accordingly, Defendants' review primarily relied on Dr.
Silver's statements and records, and their conversations
with Reidy. See, e.g. UA-CL-LTD-000545.
denied Reidy's LTD claim on July 30, and then her LWP
claims on July 31, 2015. UA-CL-LTD-000687-94;
UA-CL-LWOP-000379-84. The stated reasons for the denial was
that Reidy had improved between March and May 2014 and could
have returned to work before her termination, and that, her
symptoms had improved as of January 2015. See UA-CL-
LTD-000687-94; UA-CL-LWOP-000379-84. Defendants further noted
that Reidy denied that her other medical conditions -
migraine headaches and hypothyroidism - were in any way
disabling. See UA-CL-LTD-000687-94;
through counsel, appealed Unum's decision on January 22,
2016 and submitted additional information to support her
claim. See UA-CL-LTD-000757-866. The record was
supplemented with additional records from Dr. Silver,
information regarding Reidy's other medical conditions,
and a November 13, 2015 neurorehabilitation evaluation in
which psychologist Dr. Rick Parente (“Dr.
Parente”) administered a series of tests, and concluded
that Reidy was “unable to return to her former
job.” See UA-CL-LTD-04095. A substantial body
of general medical literature on Reidy's conditions was
also submitted. See UA-CL-LTD-000758- 803; see
also ECF No. 38 at 13-15.
Peter Brown, a psychiatrist working full-time as an Unum
claims reviewer, reviewed Reidy's appeal. Dr. Brown,
noting inconsistencies between Dr. Parente's report and
Reidy's medical records as to Reidy's drug and
alcohol use and that Reidy's testing scores did not
necessarily support the report's conclusion, requested
Dr. Parente's raw test data. See, e.g.
UA-CL-LTD-006874; UA-CL-LTD-006823. Defendants also
repeatedly urged Reidy, through counsel, to submit records
from her primary psychotherapist, Mr. Corrado, noting that
“[t]he lack of these treatment records severely limits
our ability to fully evaluate Ms. Reidy's reports of
impairing symptoms.” See e.g.
UA-CL-LTD-006823. Although Reidy's counsel notified Unum
that they intended to submit Dr. Parente's raw test data,
it was not timely provided, and the requests for
Corrado's records went unanswered. See ECF No.
March 21, 2016, Defendants issued letters upholding the
denial of Reidy's claims, finding that despite
Reidy's “chronic and complex psychiatric condition,
” her symptoms improved over time and that as of
January 29, 2015, she did not meet the plan's definition
of long term disability. UA-CL-LTD-6836-46;
LA-CL-LWOP-000414-422. The decision also looked more closely
at Reidy's chronic migraines and thyroid condition, and
found that her physicians and Reidy herself perceived those
conditions as “not impairing.”
UA-CL-LTD-006807-08. UA-CL-LTD-006839; UA-CL-LTD-000681-83.
Unum issued its decision, Dr. Parente provided Unum the
requested raw test data. See UA-CL-LTD-006877. Dr.
Brown reviewed the data, found it incomplete, and accordingly
noted that the data did not “change [his] previous
conclusions.” UA-CL-LTD-006877. The data was then
reviewed by another Unum claims reviewer, Dr. William Black
(neuropsychology), who also found the data to be incomplete
and of limited assistance. See UA-CL-LTD-006872.
Defendants took no further action, noting that the appeal
decision was already filed, Dr. Parente had not timely
submitted any raw data, and that Reidy had not
requested any further review. UA-CL-LTD-006880.
August 19, 2016, Reidy filed this action against Defendants
under § 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employment Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), requesting that
this Court declare her entitled to benefits under the Plan.
ECF No. 1. She then filed a motion to compel discovery, ECF
No. 26, which was denied for “failure to assert
particularized facts that render extra-discovery
necessary” regarding Unum's conflict of interest in
adjudication of her claim. See ECF No. 32;
Helton v. AT & T Inc., 709 F.3d 343, 352 (4th
Cir. 2013); Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). On February 9, 2018,
Defendants moved for summary judgment, and Reidy thereafter
filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. See ECF
Nos. 37 & 38.
STANDARD OF REVIEW