Colby v. Union Sec. Ins. Co.
Plaintiff was a partner in a medical practice where she served as a staff anesthesiologist. When Plaintiff’s dependence on opioids came to light, her employer had in force a group employee benefit plan, underwritten and administered by Union Security Insurance Company & Management Company for Merrimack Anesthesia Associates Long Term Disability Plan (USIC), which included long-term disability (LTD) benefits. When Plaintiff applied for those benefits, USIC refused to pay benefits past the point when Plaintiff was discharged from a treatment center, finding that Plaintiff’s risk for relapse was not the same as a current disability. Plaintiff brought suit in the federal district court. The district court ultimately awarded Plaintiff LTD benefits for the maximum time available under the plan, concluding that categorically excluding the risk of drug abuse relapse was an unreasonable interpretation of the plan. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in an addiction context, a risk of relapse can be so significant as to constitute a current disability.