United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
TRACIE D. MORGAN, Plaintiff,
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Benjamin H. Settle United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Hartford Life and
Accident Insurance Company's (“Hartford”)
motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 20. The Court, having
considered the pleadings filed in support of and in
opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file,
denies the motion for the reasons stated herein.
March 9, 2016, Tracie Morgan (“Morgan”) filed a
complaint for long-term disability benefits against Hartford.
Dkt. 1. Morgan's sole claim is wrongful denial of
benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.
November 16, 2016, Hartford moved for summary judgment. Dkt.
20. On December 5, 2016, Morgan responded. Dkt. 22. On
December 9, 2016, Hartford replied. Dkt. 23.
filed a claim with Hartford for long-term disability benefits
claiming a disability date of April 8, 2015.
AR000082. To support her claim, Morgan presented
records from Drs. Cornelia Moynihan, ND, and Larry
Stonesifer, MD. See AR000242- 47, AR000254-57,
AR000264-68. On May 11, 2015, Dr. Moynihan indicated that
Morgan was suffering chronic fatigue from infectious
mononucleosis or a “flare up of EBV [Epstein-Barr
Virus].” AR000242. However, follow-up serologies
revealed results indicating former infection with no current
illness. AR000244-46. Morgan continued to suffer symptoms of
fatigue and an inability to concentrate. AR000255. On June
18, 2015, Dr. Moynihan referred Morgan to Dr. Stonesifer for
an endocrine evaluation. AR000253.
continued to visit Dr. Moynihan for follow-up appointments.
On June 26, 2015, Dr. Moynihan authorized Morgan to work four
hours per day. AR000343. On July 1, 2015, Dr. Moynihan
increased Morgan's work capacity to 4.5 hours each day.
AR000347. On July 22, 2015, Dr. Moynihan noted that Morgan
continued to suffer fatigue and added nausea. AR000352.
28, 2015, Morgan met with Dr. Stonesifer. AR000265. Dr.
Stonesifer assessed Morgan with chronic fatigue and possible
reactive hypoglycemia. Id. Dr. Stonesifer ordered
additional tests, including an insulin tolerance test.
Id. On July 29, 2015, Dr. Moynihan ordered that
Morgan not work from July 30, 2015, through August 21, 2015.
AR000374. In the same note, Dr. Moynihan stated that Morgan
could return to work for 3 hours per day beginning on August
24, 2015. Id.
August 19, 2015, Morgan returned for a follow-up with Dr.
Stonesifer. AR000267. Reviewing Morgan's lab results, Dr.
Stonesifer noted that Morgan's “insulin tolerance
test was diagnostic of growth hormone deficiency.”
Id. However, he noted that “for definitive
diagnosis, we will need the Cortrosyn Stim study.”
August 24, 2015, Morgan returned to work on a
three-hour-per-day schedule. AR000405. On August 28, 2015,
Dr. Moynihan authorized Morgan to increase her schedule on
Mondays and Fridays from three hours to four. AR000308.
September 18, 2015, Dr. Ifeanyi Nwaneshiudu, MD, NPH,
reviewed the medical records submitted to support
Morgan's claim to Hartford. AR 000278-81. Dr. Nwaneshiudu
did not include the records of Dr. Stonesifer in his review.
AR000278-79. Dr. Nwaneshiudu assessed that “[w]ithout
any evidence of a diagnosis causing physical impairment,
there is no need for medical necessary work
restrictions.” AR 000280. On September 30, 2015, Dr.
Nwaneshiudu completed an addendum to his initial review after
discussing Morgan's functional status with Dr. Moynihan.
AR 000270. In the addendum, Dr. Nwaneshiudu noted that his
“impression of no impairment diagnosis is
October 6, 2015, Hartford denied Morgan's application for
long-term disability benefits based on Dr. Nwaneshiudu's
review. AR000102-06. Morgan appealed and Hartford submitted
her medical records to Dr. Charles Fisher, Jr., MD, for
November 18, 2015, Morgan met with Dr. Stonesifer, who noted
in his records: “I have written a letter today asking
[Hartford] to give us more time to get her growth hormone to
a more appropriate level. I think she is significantly
disabled and growth hormone deficiency can certainly cause
these symptoms . . . .” AR000173. His letter, dated
November 12, 2015, stated: “[Morgan] was recently
diagnosed with adult growth hormone deficiency. She has been