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Policaro v. Eaton Corp.

June 25, 2010

ROBERT POLICARO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EATON CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Bissoon

Judge Ambrose

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that Defendant‟s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 22) be denied, that Plaintiff‟s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 24) be granted, and that the parties be ordered to appear before the undersigned to discuss the judgment amount to be entered in favor of Plaintiff.

II. REPORT

Plaintiff has filed this ERISA action against his employer, Eaton Corporation, seeking payment of benefits under its short term disability plan ("the Plan"). See generally Compl. (attached to Doc. 1). Plaintiff was granted short term disability ("STD") benefits effective April 1, 2008, and he received them through August 7, 2008, at which time they were terminated by Defendant. See Def.‟s Facts (Doc. 23) at ¶¶ 2-3.*fn1

Defendant‟s initial determination of disability was based on Plaintiff‟s cervical pain and psychiatric problems. Id. at ¶ 9. Although the parties‟ filings address both types of impairment, the Court need not discuss Plaintiff‟s cervical issues because Defendant‟s handling of his mental conditions is dispositive. See generally discussions infra.

Defendant asserts that, although Plaintiff‟s treating psychiatric sources "provided [objective] evidence [of disability] at the outset of Plaintiff‟s claim," such evidence was lacking by August, 2008. See Def.‟s Opp‟n Br. (Doc. 27) at 2; cf. also id. at 13 (given reports of treating psychiatrists, "[Defendant] does not dispute that Plaintiff was disabled in April and May[,] 2008"). In arguing against continued disability, Defendant relies on the reports of three non-examining consultative physicians, each of whom identified a purported lack of objective medical evidence supporting the opinions of Plaintiff‟s treating psychiatrists. See Admin. Rcd. (filed under Doc. 23-1 through 23-8, hereinafter, "R. at __") at 185 (Rpt. of Dr. Vogel, stating that "[t]here [was] insufficient objective evidence of cognitive dysfunction"); id. at 159 (Rpt. of Dr. Polsky, rejecting findings of Plaintiff‟s treating psychiatrist as "[un]substantiated" by "objective mental status examination findings"); and id. at 126-27 (Rpt. of unnamed medical reviewer, concluding same).

Defendant is correct that, under the Plan, "[o]bjective findings" were required to establish continued disability. See Def.‟s Facts at ¶ 7. The Plan‟s definition of "objective findings," however, is instructive:

Objective findings are those your physician observes through objective means, not your description of the symptoms. Objective findings include:

* Physical examination findings (functional impairments/capacity);

* Diagnostic test results/imaging studies;

* Diagnoses;

* X-ray results;

* Observation of anatomical, physiological or psychological ...


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