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Disability Claims and Social Media: Not a Good Mix

In a recently decided Fifth Circuit case, email evidence from a former lover turned the tables on an attorney who claimed disability while at the same time enjoying a full and vigorous lifestyle.

In Truitt v Unum Life Insurance Company of America, Ms. Truitt is described as an attorney who practiced international oil and gas litigation until pain in her lower back, left leg and foot left her disabled. Ceasing work due to the disability, Ms. Truitt applied for and collected disability insurance benefits from Unum.

Like many individuals collecting disability, Ms. Truitt became the subject of ongoing review by Unum. Surveillance video illustrated Ms. Truitt carrying boxes, bags, pumpkins…and a dog.

Further medical evaluation led Unum to terminate her disability benefits based on her apparent ability to participate in sedentary work like that expected of an attorney. After appeal by Ms. Truitt, Unum reinstated disability payments upon advice of a vocational specialist who felt Ms. Truitt would not be able to travel internationally as required by her specialty.

Following reinstatement of her benefits, a man who identified himself as having a personal relationship with Ms. Truitt provided approximately 600 pages of emails that detail activities like:

  • International pleasure travel to Ireland, Russia, Rome, France and Guatemala
  • Dancing on a boat deck, rigorously cleaning house, lifting, and engaging in extensive adventure travel
  • Performing legal work
  • Considering a slip and fall at home and the resulting bruise as beneficial for her upcoming medical exam with Unum

Based on these revelations and further medical investigation, Unum terminated the benefits of Ms. Truitt, ultimately resulting in a decision by the Fifth Circuit that upheld their decision while remanding an issue of repayment of benefits back to the district court.

Social media and an undone personal relationship worked to uncover insurance fraud in this case. If denied rightly owed disability payments, speak with an experienced attorney in New York.

Careless Driving Resulting in Death

We recently posed the question of whether revised hours of service (HOS) regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) would reduce the number of people killed by big rig trucks in the United States. If one tragic accident can be representative, the answer is no.

Joe Bell was the father of Jadin Bell, a 15-year old student from La Grande, Oregon who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. Jadin Bell died in February of this year and after a period of soul searching, Mr. Bell set out across America to tell the story of his son and somehow deal with his grief along the way.

On April 20, Mr. Bell set out on foot with a pushcart and a backpack, bound for New York City, where his son had hoped one day to work in fashion or photography. Mr. Bell thought his walk might take two years. Chronicling his journey for thousands on social media and in newspapers as he passed through towns, Mr. Bell spoke where he could about his son, about tolerance and about his grief.

Hobbled by blisters and the ache of rebuilt knees, Mr. Bell made it to about 20 miles north of Kit Carson, Colorado. While walking down the side of a rural road on October 9, Mr. Bell was struck and killed by the driver of a tractor-trailer who had reportedly fallen asleep at the wheel. The driver was uninjured and cited for careless driving resulting in death.

Mr. Bell no longer walks for the change his son needed, nor does he struggle further with grief. Maybe we should.