FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
COLORADO (D.C. No. 1:15-CV-00137-WYD-MJW)
P. Ahearn (Bradley A. Levin with him on the brief) of Levin
Sitcoff, PC, Denver, Colorado, for
M. Englert, Jr., of Holland & Hart, LLP, Greenwood
Village, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
MATHESON, McKAY, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
cross-appeals arise out of Life Insurance Company of North
America's termination of Carl Van Steen's long-term
disability benefits under Lockheed Martin's ERISA Plan.
Life Insurance Company of North America appeals the district
court's finding that its decision to terminate Mr. Van
Steen's benefits was arbitrary and capricious. Mr. Van
Steen, in turn, appeals the district court's denial of
his attorney's fees request. We affirm the district court
on both issues.
Steen is employed as a Systems Integration Business Analyst
at Lockheed Martin Corporation. As such, he is a participant
in the Lockheed Martin Group Benefits Plan, which is
administered by Life Insurance Company of North America, or
LINA. LINA also funds Lockheed's long-term disability
policy. ERISA governs the Plan and policy.
October 2011, Mr. Van Steen was physically assaulted during
an altercation while walking his dog. The assault resulted in
a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that impacted Mr. Van
Steen's cognitive abilities. Following the incident, Mr.
Van Steen sought care from his primary treating physician,
Dr. David Reinhard, neuropsychologist Dr. James Berry, and a
handful of other providers.
cognitive dysfunction from Mr. Van Steen's mTBI prevented
him from returning to work until September 10, 2012, at which
point Dr. Reinhard cleared him for part-time work every other
day. Mr. Van Steen was allowed to return to part-time work on
a daily basis roughly six weeks later. Even on a part-time
schedule, however, Mr. Van Steen experienced cognitive
fatigue and headaches that required him to frequently rest.
He often worked from home where it was easier to take naps
throughout the day. Due to his inability to stay organized
and keep track of deadlines after the assault, Mr. Van Steen
received poor feedback on his job performance.
Steen's claim for partial long-term disability benefits
was approved on March 30, 2012. Roughly a year later, LINA
reviewed Mr. Van Steen's file and contacted Dr.
Reinhard's office for more information about Mr. Van
Steen's condition and restrictions. Dr. Reinhard's
nurse told LINA that Mr. Van Steen's restrictions were
basically permanent as he was "not likely to
improve." (Appellant's App. at 620.) Despite this
prognosis, LINA sent Mr. Van Steen a letter one week later
terminating his long-term disability benefits, explaining
that "the medical documentation on file does not
continue to support the current restrictions and limitations
to preclude you from resuming a full-time work
schedule." (Id. at 813.)
Steen appealed this decision on November 25, 2013, providing
a list of his basic job duties and arguing that there was no
evidence to support LINA's determination that he is or
had been able to perform each and every material duty of his
regular occupation full-time. Mr. Van Steen supplemented this
appeal with a psychological and vocational evaluation from
psychologist David Zierk. LINA denied Mr. Van Steen's
appeal on February 27, 2014, asserting that "an
explanation of [Mr. Van Steen's] functionality and how
[his] functional capacity continuously prevented [him] from
performing the material duties of [his] occupation from March
16, 2013 through the present and beyond was not clinically
supported." (Id. at 800-01.) Mr. Van Steen
appealed again on August 8, 2014, with supplemental medical
records, only to receive LINA's second denial on October
exhausted his administrative appeals under the Plan, Mr. Van
Steen next sought relief before the district court. The
district court reversed LINA's decision to terminate Mr.
Van Steen's partial long-term disability benefits on the
grounds that it was ...