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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Barbara Vercher, who had been working for AON Services Corp. (which was known as Alexander & Alexander at the time) since 1978, injured her knee, head and back in a car accident during the course and scope of her employment in February 1991. Vercher was referred to Dr. Babson Fresh, who performed surgery in October 1992. When Fresh eventually released Vercher, he declared her at “maximum medical improvement.” He recommended medical retirement in April 1995. Another of Vercher’s doctors recommended medical retirement also. Vercher stopped working in March 1995, supposedly because of the injuries from the wreck. She applied for long-term disability benefits in August. At the time, Alexander had an administrative services agreement (ASA) with Aetna, but right after Vercher filed her claim, Alexander entered into an ASA with MetLife Insurance. The ASA gave MetLife authority to perform certain administrative services related to the disability plan. The ASA also gave MetLife discretionary authority to determine benefits. The plan described someone as being disabled if that person was completely unable to perform “any and every duty” of her job. MetLife denied Vercher’s application in November. Vercher appealed that decision, but MetLife stood by its decision. Vercher then filed suit in state court against Alexander, who removed it to federal court. On cross motions for partial summary judgment, the district court granted MetLife’s motion that the ASA controlled the disposition of the claim, and that MetLife’s decision to deny Vercher’s application would be reviewed for an abuse of discretion, and that the decision was not an abuse of discretion. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court confirms that the long-term disability plan was not an insurance policy, that the Aetna ASA did not give Aetna full discretionary authority to determine disability and that the MetLife ASA did. In Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, 109 S.Ct. 94 (1989), the Supreme Court held that judicial review of the administrator’s determination of eligibility was to be de novo unless the plan expressly conferred discretionary authority on the administrator. Vercher agrees with that standard, but she claims that the Aetna ASA should apply to her case, since it was in force at the time of her accident, not the MetLife ASA. The court explains that “a plan administrator’s determinations are always reviewed for an abuse of discretion, but the construction of the meaning of the plan terms or plan benefit entitlement provisions is reviewed de novo unless there is an express grant of discretionary authority in that respect, and if there is such then review of those decisions is also for an abuse of discretion.” With this standard in mind, the court concludes that it does not need to determine which ASA controlled Vercher’s claim because Alexander and MetLife applied a legally correct construction of the plan and its benefit entitlement provisions. If the administrator’s construction is legally sound, then no abuse of discretion has occurred and the court’s inquiry ends. To ascertain the legally correct interpretation of the plan, the court considers: 1. whether a uniform construction of the plan has been given by the administrator; 2. whether the interpretation is fair and reasonable; and 3. whether unanticipated costs will result from a different interpretation of the policy. Applying these factors, the district court correctly determined that the essential inquiry here is whether MetLife’s interpretation of the plan was fair and reasonable, as Vercher did not allege that the construction of the plan was not uniform or that there were unanticipated costs. The district court was further correct when it determined that to grant disability to Vercher, she had to be “completely unable to perform and every duty” of her regular occupation. The court concedes that the district court’s interpretation of “any and every” � which stated that as long as Vercher had some ability to work at her position as administrative services manager, she does not meet the required eligibility standard � goes too far. But, the court notes that it does not appear that the district court’s definition of “any and every” was the one that Alexander and MetLife actually applied to Vercher’s claim. Instead, Alexander and MetLife seem to have believed that Vercher could do her job altogether, not just certain minor, or nonessential parts of it. “In deciding that she could perform”her regular occupation,’ it appears that MetLife essentially determined that, if there were something she was unable (despite reasonable accommodation) to do that was indispensable or essential to the proper performance of her regular occupation, she would have received benefits. However, so long as she was able to perform all the substantial and important aspects of her job, with reasonable accommodation, and any aspects of the job that she could not perform with reasonable accommodation were, singularly or together, not indispensable or essential to the job, then she was not disabled.” The court then examines the evidence to determine whether the facts support MetLife’s decision to deny benefits. There is evidence that Vercher did suffer from some degree of disability, but there was also evidence that Vercher’s disability did not render her completely unable to perform any and every duty of her regular occupation. For instance, a functional capacity assessment (FCA) rated her as being able to work seven to eight hours at a sedentary level. Also, one doctor opined that there were signs Vercher might be trying to exaggerate her impairment. She also maintained a fairly healthy list of daily activities after she left work. “We agree with the district court that, though medical retirement was recommended by her treating physicians, there was enough evidence in the record to show that Alexander and MetLife did not abuse their discretion by relying on the FCA and [the doctor's] conclusions in making their decision to deny Vercher’s claim.” The court adds that MetLife appropriately considered the diagnoses given by Vercher’s treating physicians, but it was not required to give those opinions “determinative weight.” OPINION:Garwood, J.; Garwood, Jones and Zainey, JJ.

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