The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Lisa Mullally, filed suit against Defendants, the
Boise Cascade Corporation Long Term Disability Plan and
Continental Casualty Company, alleging that she was wrongfully
denied disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-3508.
Specifically, Plaintiff contends that she was continuously unable
to perform her job. In response, Defendants contend that they
conducted an investigation of Plaintiff's claim and determined
that Plaintiff had failed to establish she was continuously
incapable of performing her job. Presently before the Court are
cross motions for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of
material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Cincinnati Ins. Co. v.
Flanders Elec. Motor Serv., Inc., 40 F.3d 146, 150 (7th Cir.
1994). "One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose
of factually unsupported claims or defenses. . . ." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Thus, although the
moving party on a motion for summary judgment is responsible for
demonstrating to the court why there is no genuine issue of
material fact, the non-moving party must go beyond the face of
the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file to demonstrate, through
specific evidence, that a genuine issue of material fact exists
and to show that a rational jury could return a verdict in the
non-moving party's favor. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-27;
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254-56 (1986);
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp.,
24 F.3d 918, 923 (7th Cir. 1994).
Disputed facts are material when they might affect the outcome
of the suit. First Ind. Bank v. Baker, 957 F.2d 506, 507-08
(7th Cir. 1992). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, a
court must view all inferences to be drawn from the facts in the
light most favorable to the opposing party. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 247-48; Popovits v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 185 F.3d 726,
731 (7th Cir. 1999).
The undisputed facts, for the purposes of these motions, are
taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1(a) & (b) statements of
material facts and exhibits ("Pl.'s 56.1" and "Defs.' 56.1") and
the Administrative Record ("R.").
Plaintiff was employed by Boise Cascade Corporation as a senior
marketing claim analyst. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 3; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 7.
Plaintiff's job required her to work for forty hours a week.
Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 13. Plaintiff typically sat for five hours per day,
stood for one hour per day, and walked for up to two hours per day. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 13. By
virtue of her employment, Plaintiff was a participant, as defined
by ERISA, in Boise Cascade's long-term disability insurance plan
purchased from Continental Casualty and issued to Boise Cascade.
Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 4-5.
The plan itself consists of two sets of documents the Policy
and the Certificate. R. at 6-26. The Policy states that
Continental Casualty "will deliver certificates of insurance to
the Employer for issuance to each Insured Employee. The
certificates will describe the benefits, to whom they are
payable, the policy limitations, and where the policy may be
inspected." R. at 11. The Certificate then states that "[w]hen
making a benefit determination under the policy, We have
discretionary authority to determine Your eligibility for
benefits and to interpret the terms and provisions of the
policy." R. at 12. The Certificate, though, states it is not the
policy and "is merely evidence of insurance provided under the
policy." R. at 12. Nothing in the Policy makes any reference in
any way to Continental Casualty's decision-making process
regarding benefit eligibility. R. at 6-26.
Plaintiff sought long-term disability benefits and claimed that
she was disabled because of "chronic pain that is debilitating
to the nerves around [her] left kidney with pain that flows
around left flank and down left leg." Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 10. To meet
the definition of disability, Plaintiff was required to show that
she was continuously unable to perform the material and
substantial duties of her regular occupation. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 7. To
make this showing, Plaintiff was required to provide proof in the
form of: (1) objective medical findings which support her
disability, which include but are not limited to tests,
procedures, or clinical examinations standardly accepted in the practice of medicine for her disabling
condition; and (2) the extent of her disability, including
restrictions and limitations which prevent Plaintiff from
performing her regular occupation. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 8.
Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Richard Fessler, who diagnosed
Plaintiff with chronic pain syndrome secondary to left renal
congenital abnormality. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 10. Plaintiff was also
examined by Dr. Luz Feldmann, who diagnosed Plaintiff with
complex regional pain syndrome, myofascial low back pain, site
low back pain, CV angle pain, and spasms. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 47. Dr.
Feldmann felt Plaintiff was disabled because she could not keep
regular and consistent work hours. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 12.
Dr. Richard Penn examined Plaintiff, as well. He first opined
that Plaintiff should work part-time and gradually increase her
hours, but that it would be doubtful Plaintiff would make a full
recovery. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 34. Later on, Dr. Penn reported Plaintiff
had bad days with symptoms of nausea and dizziness. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶
41. Thereafter, he concluded that if Plaintiff would return to
work, it would be extremely difficult and would probably result
in many absences and an inability to carry out her job as needed.
Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 77. Therefore, Dr. Penn later stated that Plaintiff
was disabled and may not be able to resume meaningful employment.
Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 79.
To support her claims, Plaintiff filled out daily-activity
logs. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 53-66. The logs show that Plaintiff did
activities such as driving her daughter to school, laundry,
dusting, dishwashing, cooking, shopping for groceries, and
walking. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 53-66. The logs also show that Plaintiff
frequently rested. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 53-66. Furthermore, Plaintiff
frequently took prescription medication to cope with her pain,
both orally and through a Morphine pump that was surgically implanted. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 21-24, 26-28, 30, 37-38, 40,
43-44, 53-66. The dosage of the pump started at less than 5 mg
per day of Morphine, and was raised six times to reach a dosage
of 14 mg per day. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 20-24, 27, 30.
Plaintiff's supervisor, Diane Oddo, also confirmed that
Plaintiff was not able to work on a regular basis. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶
82-83. According to the supervisor, Plaintiff frequently missed
time from work because of her condition, which caused Plaintiff
to fall behind and caused an extra burden on her co-workers.
Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 83. Plaintiff's supervisor also noted Plaintiff was
given many accommodations as a result of her condition. Pl.'s
56.1 ¶ 83. Finally, the supervisor noted that Plaintiff had
difficulty accomplishing her work because of the pain Plaintiff