United States Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Benefits Appeal

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Richards v. Hewlett-Packard Corp. (U.S. Sup. Ct. December 6, 2010)

In 1991, Edward Richards filed for long-term disability benefits after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue immune dysfunction and fibromyalgia.  Mr. Richards had worked for Digital Equipment Corp., now Hewlett-Packard Co., as a software engineer since 1984.  Prudential Insurance Co. of America granted his claim and in 1992, Mr. Richards was granted Social Security disability benefits.

The company’s plan permitted Prudential Insurance to confirm Mr. Richards’ condition from time to time.  In 2001, several physicians commissioned by the insurer found that Mr. Richards should be able to perform his job duties and was well enough to work a primarily sedentary job.  As a result, the insurer canceled Mr. Richards’ benefits.  Mr. Richards exhausted his administrative remedies and filed suit against the insurer, arguing that it violated Employee Retirement Income Security Act by basing its decision largely on the evaluation of its own physicians who never examined Mr. Richards. 

The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer and Mr. Richards’ employer.  In January 2001, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed.

On December 6, 2010, the United States Supreme Court refused to grant Mr. Richards’ petition for writ of certiorari.

For a copy of the decision click here

Toni Frain and Joanna Roberto