We’re excited to introduce the new Riemer Hess Quarterly Report. This report is intended to cover the Firm’s most relevant highlights of 2023 Q3. Below you’ll find news updates, recent educational outreach performed by the firm, and client success stories from this quarter.
Leveraging AI Legal Research Tools
In Q3, Riemer Hess explored the possibility of using AI tools to enhance our legal research efforts. The Firm prides itself on employing cutting edge technology designed to protect and assist our clients in the best possible way. We know that the courts are already utilizing this technology and our opponents will soon follow. In fact, earlier this month, Prudential unveiled plans to use a new AI system called EvolutionIQ to help “streamline the disability claims process.” Unfortunately, insurance companies are more likely to use AI tools to deny claims rather than protect claimants. The Post revealed that 70% of the top 15 U.S. disability carriers are already using this AI tool.
The Firm thoroughly explored two (2) AI options to help us stay ahead of the insurance companies. We will be moving forward with a service offered by Westlaw, the industry leader for legal research platforms and tools. We look forward to using this tool to our clients’ advantage.
FIRM OUTREACH AND EDUCATION ROUNDUP
New CLE Course with Lawline
In July 2023, Associate Ryan McIntyre and Partner Jennifer Hess taught a new Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) course with Lawline titled, “Navigating the Intersection of Employment Law and Long Term Disability Claims.” Lawline is the leading provider of online continuing legal education offering legal intelligence to attorneys in all 50 states. By teaching this class, Mr. McIntrye and Ms. Hess sought to educate employment law attorneys about how our practice areas often overlap, and how to navigate through hurdles to best represent our mutual clients’ best interests. The course is now available on demand. It currently has an average 5-star rating with 300 reviews.
Attendance at the NELA NY Conference
In September 2023, Partner Scott Riemer attended a conference for the National Employment Lawyer Association’s New York Chapter at Fordham Law School. Mr. Riemer is a longtime member of the organization. Just last year, he taught a CLE course, together with Ms. Hess, at the same conference.
Supporting Those with Early Onset Alzheimer’s
In September 2023, the Firm undertook creating and sharing content about the challenges faced by individuals filing long term disability claims due to early onset Alzheimer’s. The Firm did so in recognition of World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21, 2023.
Educating About Tick Borne Illnesses
In August 2023, the Firm undertook creating and sharing content about the challenges faced by individuals seeking long term disability claims due to tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease and babesiosis. The Firm did so in light of the increasing number of tick-borne related illnesses in the Northeast U.S. this summer.
CLIENT SUCCESS STORY SPOTLIGHT
In August 2023, the Firm won a significant victory when our client “Danielle” (not her real name) was awarded ongoing LTD benefits beyond her policy’s change in definition. A change in definition review is always a difficult time in the LTD claim process because the insurance company looks for evidence of any possible job that the claimant is able to perform.
Danielle had worked as an office manager for many years. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease which led to Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy ("CIDP"), which causes severe pain, and was no longer able to work.
Knowing that insurance companies often look to terminate benefits during the change in definition, Danielle’s legal team (consisting of Associate Ryan McIntyre and Paralegal Sam Renner) put together a comprehensive strategy to ensure she surpassed the change in definition. In addition to supportive letters from Danielle’s treating physicians, Riemer Hess sent her for a Functional Capacity Evaluation and Independent Medical Exam. Both of these tests provided supportive objective medical evidence that the insurance company was unable to ignore. As a result, Danielle was awarded ongoing LTD benefits.
Rhodes v. First Reliance
- In Q2, we secured a significant victory against First Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company in Rhodes v. First Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company in the federal court in Manhattan.
- The plaintiff, a Financial Engineer, initially had his disability claim approved but later faced benefits termination. In doing so, First Reliance violated multiple subsections of ERISA’s claims procedure regulations.
- The court’s decision emphasized holding insurance companies accountable for violations of ERISA regulations.
- First Reliance Standard quickly agreed to pay retroactive benefits and conduct a remand review.
- In Q3, the Firm is working on preparing for the remand submission, which is due November 21, 2023.
- The litigation and remand are being led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Samantha Wladich.
Graziano v. First Unum
- In Q3, we achieved a victory in Graziano v. First UNUM Life Insurance Company in the federal court in Manhattan.
- The plaintiff, a Senior Property Underwriter, won after facing limitations due to lumbar impairments.
- The court heavily criticized UNUM’s claims handling and awarded benefits to Mr. Graziano.
- The court remanded the matter back to UNUM to conduct a review of ongoing benefit eligibility.
- The litigation and remand are being led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Ryan McIntyre.
Glickman v. First Unum
- In Q2, we obtained a total success in Glickman, M.D., v. First UNUM Life Insurance Company in the federal court in Manhattan.
- The plaintiff faced issues with improperly calculated benefits after prostate cancer surgery.
- The Court sided with Dr. Glickman’s interpretation of the disability plan.
- In Q3, favorable negotiations followed swiftly regarding the monies owed to Dr. Glickman.
- The litigation was led by Partner Scott Riemer, together with Associate Ryan McIntyre.
Chung v. Provident Life
- In Q3 we achieved a total victory in Chung v. Provident Life and Casualty Insurance Company in the federal court in Manhattan.
- The plaintiff, an M&A partner at a prestigious white shoe law firm, had his nearly three decade long legal career cut short due to progressive spinal difficulties.
- Crucially, he held two insurance policies through his firm, both subject to ERISA regulations.
- Unum initially approved both claims for approximately two years before terminating the supplemental policy based on their IME’s opinion that he could work part-time.
- Riemer Hess successfully established that the plaintiff could not perform his job duties on even a part-time basis.
- The Court awarded plaintiff his long-term disability benefits through the date of the decision as well as his costs and attorney’s fees associated with the litigation.
- The litigation was jointly led by Partners Scott Riemer and Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Ryan McIntyre.
Doe v. First Unum
- In Q3, we initiated a litigation on behalf of “Doe” against UNUM in the federal court in Manhattan
- Given the sensitivity of Doe’s illness, we requested that the Court permit us to use a pseudonym in order to keep our client’s identity anonymous.
- The Court approved our request to use the name “Doe” instead of our client’s real name.
- We currently await UNUM’s Answer, which is due October 16, 2023.
- The litigation is being led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Samantha Wladich.
Wudke v. Lincoln Financial
- In Q2, we filed a lawsuit against Lincoln Financial after Lincoln failed to respond to an administrative appeal.
- Swift and favorable discussions with Lincoln Financial led to a voluntary dismissal.
- In Q3, we continued to assist the plaintiff with ongoing benefit claims.