United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Jenni Inwood
O'Gorman's Motion for Judgment under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 52 based on an administrative record created
in an underlying Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA) dispute. Dkt. # 16. Defendant Hartford Accident Life
and Insurance Company (“Hartford”) opposes
Plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff brought this action under
ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. asking the
Court to declare her “disabled” under the
Long-Term Disability (LTD) Plan (“the Plan”)
provided through her employer by Hartford and, subsequently,
to award her LTD benefits under the Plan.
a request to reach judgment prior to trial would be made
under a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, however under
such a motion the Court is forbidden to make factual findings
or weigh evidence. T.W. Elec. Servs., Inc. v. Pac. Elec.
Contractor's Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
1987). Instead, the parties here propose the Court conduct a
trial on the administrative record under Rule 52.
See Dkt. # 10. The procedure for such a trial is
outlined in Kearney v. Standard Ins. Co., 175 F.3d
1084, 1095 (9th Cir. 1999) (noting that “the district
court may try the case on the record that the administrator
had before it.”). In a trial on the administrative
record, the district judge reviews the evidence to determine
“whether [the Plaintiff] is disabled within the terms
of the policy.” Id. Further, “in a trial
on the record, but not on summary judgment, the judge can
evaluate the persuasiveness of conflicting testimony and
decide which is more likely true.” Id.
does not set out the appropriate standard of review for
actions under § 1132(a)(1)(B) challenging eligibility
determinations.” Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v.
Bruch, 489 U.S. 101, 109 (1989). However, where, as
here, the parties have stipulated to de novo review,
the Court may accept the stipulation and review the
administrative record accordingly. Bigham v. Liberty Life
Assurance Co. of Boston, 148 F.Supp.3d 1159, 1161 (W.D.
Wash. 2015); Bunger v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am.,
196 F.Supp.3d 1175, 1177 (W.D. Wash. 2016). This de
novo standard requires the Court to make findings of
fact and weigh the evidence. See Walker v. Am. Home
Shield Long Term Disability Plan, 180 F.3d 1065,
1069 (9th Cir. 1999) (de novo review applies to plan
administrator's factual findings as well as plan
interpretation). The Court issues the following findings and
conclusions, pursuant to Rule 52.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff Jenni Inwood O'Gorman was employed by
Continental Mills, Inc. as a “Data Analyst.”
HARTRCD 294. This position required the ability to
“interpret an extensive variety of data and deal with a
variety of data collection points, ” “define
problems, ” “collect data, ” establish
facts, ” “draw valid conclusions, ”
“analyze data critically and edit objectively, ”
“read, analyze, and interpret consumer data and
translate into action items, ” write reports, business
correspondence, and procedural manuals, ” “chart
processes, ” and “translate them into user
documentation.” HARTRCD 189. Additionally, Plaintiff
was required to “generat[e] reports . . . highlighting
consumer data, ” “[d]evelop [r]eport queries and
take responsibility for the management of new and existing
report files, ” “provide reporting assistance to
other departments, ” “monitor and review cases
for coding accuracy, ” “utilize computer
systems” to provide reports to an internal audience,
and conduct audits. Id.
Plaintiff was offered LTD benefits by her employer through a
Plan administered by Hartford, Policy Number GRH-677928.
HARTPLN 6. As a full-time employee working a minimum of 32
hours per week, Plaintiff was eligible for LTD benefits.
Plan provided in relevant part:
or Disabled means You are prevented from performing one
or more of the Essential Duties of:
1) Your Occupation during the Elimination Period;
2) Your Occupation, for the 24 month(s) following the
Elimination Period, and as a result Your Current Monthly
Earnings are less than 80% of Your Indexed Pre-disability
3) after that, Any Occupation.
Your Disability must result from . . . sickness[.]
. . .
Duty means a duty that:
1) is substantial, not incidental;
2) is fundamental or inherent to the occupation; and
3) cannot reasonably be omitted or changes.
Your ability to work the number of hours in Your regularly
scheduled work week is an Essential Duty.
. . .
Occupation means any occupation for which You are
qualified by education, training or experience, and that has