American Airlines Pilots File Class Action Lawsuit Over Disability Benefit Denials
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American Airlines Pilots File Class Action Lawsuit Over Disability Benefit Denials

By Matt O'Donnell


American Airlines(LEGAFI) -- American Airlines has been hit with a federal ERISA class action lawsuit accusing the company of “systematically” denying pilots’ disability claims under the American Airlines Pilot Retirement Benefit Program.

Former American Airlines pilot Andrea Susan Twitchell filed the American Airlines disability benefits class action lawsuit after her disability retirement benefits were terminated “without any independent medical examination and despite the facts that there was no substantial change in [her] benefits or her course of treatment,” the class action lawsuit says.

According to Twitchell, she received a letter from American Airlines stating her benefits were being terminated “because it cannot be established that you are receiving qualified medical care that is consistent with your diagnosis of Performance Anxiety.” However, Twitchell never received any disability benefits under the Plan for “Performance Anxiety.”

Twitchell also claims in the American Airlines retirement disability benefits class action lawsuit that despite repeatedly being re-approved for benefits for over four years, and despite no material change to the evidence she submitted supporting her benefit claims, the letter stated that American Airlines could not “conclusively establish the existence” of her medical conditions and were “unable to verify” they she received qualified medical care consistent with the nature of her prolonged illness.

Twitchell further claims the Plan failed to advise her in the termination letter what information she needed to provide in order to correct her claim for benefits, in violation of ERISA.

According to the American Airlines ERISA class action lawsuit, American Airlines “routinely and systematically” violated ERISA and the terms of their pilot retirement plan by:

(1) terminating disability benefits without receiving information that differed in any way from the information American received when they determined that the pilot was disabled;

(2) failing to consider the essential job duties and responsibilities of pilots in determining if they are disabled within the meaning of the Plan;

(3) imposing an objective evidence requirement when no such requirement is contained in the Plan; and

(4) failing to advise pilots during the claims process of what additional material or information is necessary to perfect their claims and an explanation of why such material or information is necessary.

The American Airlines ERISA class action lawsuit is brought on behalf of all American Airlines Pilot Retirement Benefit Program participants who, at any time within the applicable statute of limitations, received disability retirement benefits and had their benefits terminated, and all current Plan participants.

It is asking that Class Members be awarded $110 per day for each separate violation for American Airline’s failure to provide relevant plan documents, prejudgment interest, injunctive relief, and more.

A copy of the American Airlines Disability Retirement Benefits Class Action Lawsuit can be read here.

The case is Andrea Susan Twitchell v. American Airlines Retirement Benefit Program, et al., U.S. District Court, District of Arizona.


Updated September 20th, 2011

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