Overturning a lower court, a unanimous Supreme Court found that businesses can reject employee disability benefits when their doctor disagrees with the treating physician. The case involved Kenneth Nord, a former Black & Decker employee, whose physicians diagnosed him with degenerative disk disease and chronic pain, saying he was unable to work. The company denied the claim after its neurologist found that Nord, with pain medication, could perform some work. Because the Black & Decker plan is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Nord's lawyers argued that his disability eligibility should be decided by the treating physician. Writing the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said: "Nothing in [ERISA] suggests that plan administrators must accord special deference to the opinions of treating physicians. Nor does the Act impose a heightened burden of explanation on administrators when they reject a treating physician's opinion."
Published on: Aug 1, 2003