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Bruce v. Hartford

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 1, 2014

LINDA BRUCE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE HARTFORD, and THE BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON, INC. LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, Defendants

For Linda Bruce, Plaintiff: Scott Bertram Elkind, Elkind & Shea, Silver Spring, MD.

For Hartford, Booz Allen Hamilton Long Term Disability Plan, Defendants: David Edward Constine, III, Jonathan Adrian Constine, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Troutman Sanders LLP, Washington, DC; Brandon David Almond, Rebecca Elaine Ivey, TROUTMAN SANDERS, LLP, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 591

MEMORANDUM OPINION

James C. Cacheris, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Hartford Life and Accident Insurance

Page 592

Company's (" Defendant" or " Hartford" ) Motion to Set Aside and Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Order Dated March 25, 2014. [Dkt. 43.] At issue is whether the Magistrate Judge erred in permitting discovery beyond the administrative record on Defendant's structural conflict of interest. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion to Set Aside.

I. Background

Plaintiff Linda Bruce (" Plaintiff" or " Bruce" ) seeks long-term disability benefits under § 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) (" ERISA" ).

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff worked as a Professional Administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton (" Booz Allen" ). (Compl. ¶ 11.) As a Booz Allen employee, Plaintiff participated in an employee welfare benefits plan established by her employer. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Hartford acts as both the claims administrator and insurer for the plan. (Compl. ¶ 7.) On October 19, 2010, Plaintiff became unable to work full-time after a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff reported back pain when standing and sitting, and a physical exam conducted in March, 2011 found paravertebral tenderness and point tenderness. (H2579.[1]) Plaintiff worked part-time through March, 2011.

On February 28, 2011, Hartford notified Plaintiff of her potential eligibility for Long Term Disability (" LTD" ). (H2582.) Hartford approved Plaintiff's claim for LTD, beginning on April 19, 2011. (H11.) Over the next few months, Plaintiff provided continuing proof that she was disabled. On November 28, 2012, Hartford engaged MES Solutions (" MES" ) to assign Plaintiff's case to an appropriate physician for an evaluation of Plaintiff's functionality. MES referred Plaintiff's case to Dr. Albert C. Fuchs. In December, Dr. Fuchs provided a report to Hartford. Based on the contents of this report, Hartford determined that Plaintiff was capable of " performing the essential duties of her sedentary occupation." (Def. Mem. at 5.) Hartford denied Plaintiff's ongoing claim for LTD by letter dated January 30, 2013, effective February 1, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 13.)

On August 2, 2013, Plaintiff appealed her denial of LTD benefits. (Compl. ¶ 14.) On September 11, 2013, Hartford notified Plaintiff that an additional functional capacity evaluation (" FCE" ) was needed to complete its review of Plaintiff's appeal. Through a third-party vendor, an FCE was arranged for October 30, 2013. Plaintiff did not agree to attend the FCE. According to Plaintiff, Hartford failed to timely decide her appeal and contacted her in excess of ERISA's 90-day review period. (Compl. ¶ 15.)

B. Procedural Background

On October 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Hartford and the Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. Long Term Disability Plan. [Dkt. 1.] On March 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Motion to Compel Discovery. [Dkt. 24.] The Motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones, Jr. On March 19, 2014, Defendant filed its opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. [Dkt. 27.] Plaintiff filed her reply on March 20, 2014. [Dkt. 28.] On March 21, 2014, Magistrate Judge Jones held a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and took the matter under advisement. On March 25, 2014, Magistrate Judge Jones

Page 593

issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. [Dkt. 31.] The Order required Hartford to respond to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 1, parts (a) and (c) for years 2010-2012, Interrogatory No. 2, parts (a) and (c) for years 2010-2012, and produce all documents described in Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents No. 2, dollar figures redacted, that apply to calendar years 2010-2012.[2]

On March 28, 2014, Defendant filed its Motion for Partial Relief from the Discovery Order of March 25, 2014. [Dkts. 32-33.] On April 1, 2014, Magistrate Judge Jones granted Defendant's Motion and issued an Order stating that Hartford is not required to respond to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 2(c) (demanding that Hartford identify the number of cases in which MES Peer Review Services " found a claimant suffering from restrictions preventing work" for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012). [Dkt. 35.]

On April 11, 2014, Defendant filed its Motion to Set Aside and Objections to Magistrate Judge's Order Dated March 25, 2014 (" Motion to Set Aside" ). [Dkt. 43.] Plaintiff filed her Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Set Aside and Objections to the Same Order on April 16, 2014. ...


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