Welcome to the Riemer Hess Quarterly Report. This report is intended to cover the Firm’s most relevant highlights of 2023 Q4. Below you’ll find news updates, recent educational outreach performed by the firm, and client success stories from this quarter.
Legal Research and Tools
Our firm recently enhanced our legal research capabilities by upgrading to a version of Westlaw that integrates AI-assisted research options. This significant advancement allows for more efficient, precise, and comprehensive analysis of legal matters. Westlaw itself is a renowned legal research platform, offering extensive access to a vast array of legal resources including case law, statutes, regulations, and legal journals. With AI’s assistance, we can swiftly navigate complex legal scenarios, find relevant case law, and stay abreast of the latest legal trends. This ensures our clients receive the most informed and effective representation possible.
Accepted for Publication by the American Bar Association (“ABA”)
We are proud to announce that Partner Jennifer L. Hess and Associate Ryan J. McIntyre’s article, “Assessing the 2018 ERISA LTD Claims Regulations; Five Years Later,” has been accepted for publication by the American Bar Association (“ABA”). This marks a significant achievement, reflecting our firm’s commitment to thought leadership in the field of ERISA long term disability claims.
The acceptance of this article by the ABA, a leading organization in the legal profession, underscores our dedication to not only understanding but also shaping the discourse in long term disability law. Ms. Hess and Mr. McIntyre’s work exemplifies our firm’s role in educating and informing our peers about critical developments in LTD claims. Through such contributions, we continue to foster a deeper understanding of LTD issues among legal professionals, thereby enhancing the quality and efficacy of legal representation for those in need.
Accepted for Publication by the American Association for Justice (“AAJ”)
We’re pleased to share that Partner Jennifer Hess’ article, “Tackling Defenses in TBI Disability Claims,” has been accepted for publication in Trial magazine, a respected publication of the American Association for Justice (“AAJ”). This prestigious organization, established in 1946, advocates for a fair and effective justice system, supporting plaintiff’s lawyers in the U.S. The AAJ is dedicated to assisting attorneys in securing justice for individuals harmed by negligence or misconduct. Jennifer’s article underscores our firm’s commitment to legal excellence and empathy, particularly in the complex area of TBI disability claims. It reflects our continuous effort to contribute meaningful insights to the legal community, supporting both attorneys and those they represent in seeking justice.
Launch of the Riemer Hess Client Connect Newsletter
In Q4, Riemer Hess proudly launched the “Riemer Hess Client Connect” newsletter, a significant initiative aimed at enhancing our communication and support for our valued clients. This exclusive newsletter, tailored specifically for our clients, represents our commitment to their well-being and success. It features anonymously shared insights from fellow clients, practical tips for navigating the complexities of the claim process, recommended resources for empowerment, and inspiring success stories. This initiative reflects our dedication to not only provide legal support but also to foster a supportive community among our clients.
FIRM OUTREACH AND EDUCATION ROUNDUP
Pro Bono Work
In Q4, Riemer Hess undertook a significant pro bono case, representing “Jane,” a courageous young woman confronting stage IV colon cancer.
Jane’s resilience was evident as she balanced her demanding job while undergoing intense biweekly chemotherapy sessions at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. However, maintaining her work schedule during such aggressive treatment significantly jeopardized her health and well-being. The situation became more critical when Jane’s medical team advised incorporating radiation therapy into her regimen, necessitating daily hospital visits. Faced with this daunting scenario and lacking a support system, Jane found herself in an incredibly challenging position.
Feeling overwhelmed by the complexities of the LTD claim process, compounded by her escalating treatment needs, Jane reached out to Riemer Hess for assistance. Our team promptly responded, providing compassionate and expert guidance through every step of the process. We successfully navigated the intricacies of her Short Term Disability (“STD”) claim, leading to the approval of her benefits for the maximum duration. Currently, we are diligently preparing her Long Term Disability (“LTD”) application.
Our involvement in Jane’s case underscores our commitment to empathetic and expert legal assistance, especially for those facing life-altering health challenges. At Riemer Hess, we pride ourselves on not just being legal advisors but also advocates who stand by our clients in their most trying times.
The matter is being handled by Associate Samantha Wladich and Paralegal Michele Wagner.
New CLE with myLawCLE and the Federal Bar Association
On December 18, 2023, our Associate Attorney Ryan McIntyre successfully presented a live CLE webinar titled “ERISA Long Term Disability Essentials for Social Security Disability Attorneys” via myLawCLE. In this insightful session, Mr. McIntyre provided a detailed overview of ERISA Long Term Disability insurance policies and their relation to Social Security Disability claims, emphasizing the differences in their claims and appeals processes. The webinar, which was also simultaneously published by the Federal Bar Association, highlighted Riemer Hess’s dedication to legal education and the firm’s expertise in bridging complex areas of disability law.
CLIENT SUCCESS STORY SPOTLIGHT
“Sally,” a marketing executive, faced daunting health challenges with her worsening neck condition, causing pain and hampering her ability to work on a computer. Despite undergoing treatments like physical therapy and exploring various medical opinions, her condition, diagnosed as severe cervical stenosis, showed little improvement.
Riemer Hess stepped in with a strategic plan to address Sally’s complex situation. We arranged for a Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”) and strongly recommended that she undergo Electromyography (“EMG”) testing because we suspected radiculopathy – a nerve condition causing pain, numbness, or weakness – impacting her upper extremities.
The results of the EMG confirmed our suspicions, revealing significant radiculopathy. This critical piece of medical evidence provided a solid foundation for her long term disability claim. Sally, initially apprehensive about the impact of her health on her career, found renewed hope and confidence in our thorough and empathetic legal support.
Thanks to our strategic approach and expert guidance, we successfully filed and won Sally’s claim – highlighting the power of precise medical diagnosis and legal expertise in navigating complex health-related challenges. Her story exemplifies the resilience in the face of adversity and the importance of specialized legal support in overcoming health barriers.
The matter was handled by Associate Ryan McIntyre and Paralegal Michele Wagner.
Rhodes v. First Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company
- In Q3, we had secured a significant victory against First Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company in Rhodes v. First Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company in the Southern District of New York, a federal court in Manhattan. Following this victory, First Reliance Standard quickly agreed to pay retroactive benefits and conduct a remand review.
- In Q4, we won the remand review – achieving the best possible outcome for the plaintiff, a Financial Engineer who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. In December 2023, First Reliance released over two years of retroactive benefits that it had wrongly withheld.
- On December 27, 2023, the Court granted plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees in full, finding that the hourly rates charged by Riemer Hess were reasonable in light of the Firm’s experience and capability, and finding that the amount of time expended by Riemer Hess was reasonable given the circumstances. This is a significant victory for Mr. Rhodes because the attorney fee award by the Court goes a long way towards making him whole, offsetting much of the cost of retaining Riemer Hess to pursue his litigation. The award is also a significant victory for Riemer Hess clients in general. The case will serve as a valuable precedent, which will help secure large attorney fee awards for other Riemer Hess clients.
- The litigation and remand were led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Samantha Wladich. Paralegals Michele Wagner and Sam Cornielle-Renner also made significant contributions to support this matter.
Graziano v. First Unum Life Insurance Company
- In Q3, we had achieved a victory in Graziano v. First UNUM Life Insurance Companyin the federal court in Manhattan.
- The plaintiff, a Senior Property Underwriter, successfully challenged the denial of his benefits due to debilitating lumbar impairments.
- The court’s decision, which sharply criticized UNUM’s handling of the claim, resulted in the award of benefits to Mr. Graziano and an order for a remand to review his ongoing eligibility for benefits.
- Following this initial success, we achieved a further triumph in Q4 with the remand review, ensuring continued support for our client’s needs.
- The litigation and remand were led by Partner Jennifer Hess, along with Associate Ryan McIntyre. Senior Paralegal Hannah Cochrane also made significant contributions to support this matter.
Colin D. v. Morgan Stanley, et al.
- In Q4, the federal court in Manhattan necessitated a trial by denying summary judgment motions from both parties in this residential health care treatment case involving a minor.
- The court found that the defendants violated relevant claims procedure regulations. Specifically, the court found that the claim denial letters did not specify which plan provisions were used to determine the denial of the residential treatment, failing to address the crucial concept of medical necessity.
- This resulted in the court imposing a de novo standard of review for the case, significantly increasing the plaintiff’s chances of success compared to the arbitrary and capricious standard typically used.
- The parties were able to settle the lawsuit following the order.
- The litigation is led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Ryan McIntyre. Paralegals Sam Cornielle-Renner and Hannah Cochrane also made significant contributions to support this matter.
Quigley v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America
- In Q4, the federal court in Manhattan necessitated a trial by denying summary judgment motions from both parties.
- This hotly contested long term disability dispute involves a bond trade manager who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident.
- Following the court’s order, the judge indicated that he would likely want significant live testimony from the parties’ medical experts, including the plaintiff’s longtime treating neurologist.
- The parties agreed to engage in settlement discussions following the order.
- The litigation is being led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Ryan McIntyre. Senior Paralegal Hannah Cochrane also made significant contributions to support this matter.
Rappaport v. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
- In Q3 and Q4, we were successful in multiple discovery motions in which the Manhattan federal court ordered Guardian to produce multiple witnesses for a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition and to produce additional documents relevant to this case.
- In December 2023, the Court issued a scheduling order for Motions for Summary Judgment. In January 2024, we will prepare and file our motion, which will argue for the de novo standard of review and that Defendant’s claim for an overpayment is barred by the doctrine of laches.
- The litigation is being led by Partner Scott Riemer, 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.
- In Q4, the parties began fact discovery, which is scheduled to end in April 2023.
- The litigation is being led by Partner Jennifer Hess, together with Associate Samantha Wladich. Supervising Paralegal Kasandra Raux also made significant contributions to support this matter.