If you’re applying for long-term disability benefits, not much of your private life is off limits. Whether you’re mowing your lawn or posting on your Facebook page, your disability insurer can monitor your activities in search of any reason to deny your claim for benefits. And, it may well do so.
In O’Bryan v. Consol Energy, Inc., (2012), the Sixth Circuit (which includes all federal courts in Tennessee) held that there is nothing improper with a plan administrator conducting surveillance on a claimant for long-term disability benefits. In that case, Liberty Life Assurance Company (“Liberty”) paid an investigator to put a disability claimant under surveillance. The investigator then observed the claimant performing common daily tasks, such as getting in and out of his vehicle, putting fuel in his vehicle, and mowing the lawn. Because of the investigator’s findings, Liberty denied the disability claim. When the Plaintiff challenged the company’s decision, the court upheld Liberty’s decision to deny benefits, specifically citing Liberty’s argument that the investigator’s surveillance report contradicted the symptoms the claimant reported to his medical examiners.