Attended Law School? Passed the Bar? Walked a Dog?
Though most attorneys have to attend law school and pass the Bar exam to practice law, Reliance Standard Insurance Company decided that the ability to walk a dog was sufficient enough for one attorney to practice law. In a recent case, an attorney who suffered from numerous debilitating medicial conditions, including osteoarthritis and severe fibromyalgia, struggled with her health until eventually she had to cease practicing law. She became unable to meet with clients, conduct research, and draft legal documents. She did, however, walk her small dog around the block to allow the dog daily exercise and bathroom breaks. Though the attorney felt that she no longer had the physcial and cognitive ability to continue practicing law, Reliance Standard Insurance Company denied her ERISA benefits on the basis that her ability to walk her small dog was sufficient evidence otherwise. When the matter eventually went to Court, Judge Joan B. Gottschall coined one of the most memorable ERISA quotes in her ruling for the disabled attorney, stating:
“This would come as something of a surprise to the nation’s law students, that the threshold requirement for practicing law is based on the ability to walk a dog.” Druhot v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company, (N.D. Ill. Sept. 28, 2017). Unfortunately, it is all too common for insurance companies to assume physical and cognitive abilities on the ability to complete menial daily tasks. While ERISA often favors insurance companies, it is possible to use the law in favor of clients by providing strong contradictory evidence during the claim process.