Argued: May 9, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Virginia, at Lynchburg. Norman K. Moon, Senior
District Judge. (6:16-cv-00024-NKM-RSB)
Michael D. Grabhorn, GRABHORN LAW OFFICE, PLLC, Louisville,
Kentucky, for Appellant.
Cowles Neiman, Jr., MAYNARD COOPER & GALE, P.C.,
Birmingham, Alabama, for Appellee.
M. Grabhorn, GRABHORN LAW OFFICE, PLLC, Louisville, Kentucky,
William B. Wahlheim, Jr., Grace R. Murphy, Braxton S. Thrash,
MAYNARD COOPER & GALE, P.C., Birmingham, Alabama, for
WILKINSON and NIEMEYER, Circuit Judges, and Richard M.
GERGEL, United States District Judge for the District of
South Carolina, sitting by designation.
NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Griffin commenced this action under the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act ("ERISA") against Hartford Life
and Accident Insurance Company ("Hartford Life") as
the administrator of his employee welfare benefit plan,
seeking a continuation of the long-term disability benefits
that Hartford Life had terminated based on its conclusion
that Griffin was no longer "disabled," as that term
is used in the plan.
district court granted summary judgment to Hartford Life, and
Griffin filed this appeal, contending that the district court
erred (1) in reviewing the administrator's decision for
abuse of discretion, rather than de novo, and (2) in
concluding that Griffin failed to provide evidence sufficient
to support a conclusion that Hartford Life's decision to
terminate the long-term disability benefits was unreasonable.
For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Griffin became employed by MedQuist Transcriptions, Ltd., as
a medical transcriptionist in April 2010. As an employee, he
enjoyed the benefits of MedQuist's employee welfare
benefit plan, which included life insurance, short-term
disability benefits, and long-term disability benefits.
MedQuist provided these benefits through group policies that
it purchased from Hartford Life, which was also the
administrator of the plan.
relevant to this appeal, Griffin's long-term disability
benefits were governed by a long-term disability policy that
defined disability as follows:
or Disabled means You are prevented from performing one
or more of the Essential Duties of:
(1) Your Occupation during the [180-day] Elimination
(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 ...