Ex-Walmart Worker To Get Her Lawsuit Before Supreme Court

Walmart disability benefitsWalmart won a landmark case in the Supreme Court in 2011, defeating the largest civil class action in history. But attorneys for the world's largest retailer will be heading back to the country's highest court. This time, there is just one plaintiff, a woman who claims she was denied disability benefits after nearly 20 years at the company.

Julie Heimeshoff started working for Walmart in 1986, ultimately rising to the rank of senior public relations manager. In 2005, she began suffering from chronic pain, fatigue and migraines related to related to fibromyalgia, her lawsuit states. By the summer of that year, she was unable to work full-time, and the Social Security Administration deemed her disabled.

In August 2005, Heimeshoff filed a claim with Hartford Life Accident and Insurance Co., which provides long-term disability insurance to Walmart employees. For the next two plus years, Heimeshoff and Hartford waged war over whether or not she was in fact disabled.

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Heimeshoff submitted evaluations from five different doctors, including her primary physician, a rheumatologist, and a neurophyschologist, according to her lawsuit. All of them found her to unable to work. Hartford hired three different doctors to review her file, and they disagreed. "[T]he objective data fails to support severity," the lawsuit quotes one of them as concluding. In November 2007, Hartford issued its final denial letter.

Heimeshoff sued Hartford and Walmart in 2010, claiming that the denial of her claims violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The federal law states that when a private employer provides benefits, the claims administrator must clearly explain what extra material is necessary to make a successful claim. Not only did Hartford fail to do that, the lawsuit alleges, the company used biased doctors, failed to investigate her claim in good faith, and denied her in a way that was "arbitrary and capricious."

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In January 2012, the federal judge decided in favor of Hartford -- but not because she said that Hartford acted fairly. Rather, U.S. District Judge Janet Atherton said the statute of limitations had expired. Heimeshoff had to file suit within three years of the deadline for proving her disability, the judge said. She was two months too late.

Heimeshoff countered that the statute of limitations should really begin when she knew she had been denied, which was a couple of months later. The 2nd Circuit disagreed, and dismissed her objection that Hartford had never told her about the time limit in its letters. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear her case.

"The trial and appellate courts found that The Hartford's plan language was reasonable and enforceable," Hartford said in a written statement. "Indeed, most federal courts have enforced provisions like ours." Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

This isn't the first case involving disability and Walmart to land on the Supreme Court docket. Several years ago, a Walmart order-filler who earned $13 an hour was unable to do her job after an accident injured her hand and arm. But rather than transfer her to an equivalent position, Walmart gave her a job as a janitor, at $6.20 an hour. Walmart reached a settlement with the employee in 2008, so the Supreme Court dismissed the case.

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263 Comments

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TheAOLExperience

Good Heavens!! And to think, a friend of mine, and his son, are trying to get jobs with WalMart. I hope they read this article and reconsider.

April 23 2013 at 1:40 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
bagthepi

Walmart does anything and everything possible to save a dime so that their execs can pocket the change. They price everything low but those low prices come at a cost. I don't shop there.

April 23 2013 at 12:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JamesD

This clearly shows is that doctors can be ****** for insurance companies same as politicians can be ****** for corporations!!

April 22 2013 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pjcpac

Once the SSA declared her disabled that should have been the end of it. Pay up Hartford.

April 22 2013 at 7:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Sorry but I did not see their name on any of the lots of the Massachusetts Bay Company so maybe they came under the fence at some later date?

April 22 2013 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

My people settled the Massachusetts Bay Company, New Haven Colony, and Wethersfield CT. What did their people do?

April 22 2013 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

My Great* Cousin George "Big Ed W.... Built the Monkey House in NY. As long as they are in business the people will never want for Monkies!

April 22 2013 at 6:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Make everybody door greeters then the management will have to pull pallets, get carts, and unload the trucks.

April 22 2013 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

If she is disabled they can't stop her from getting full time disability.

April 22 2013 at 5:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
wllharrington

She may be able to get disability through Social Security, however, to get it through the insurance company(Hartford) a legal determination will have to be made by the Supreme Court as to when her time to file a claim started. Of course, disability through the insurance company will most likely be more than she could get through Social Security.

April 22 2013 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wllharrington's comment
Iselin007

If it wasn\'t for NAFTA and the other trade deals US Citizens would not be going through this crap.

April 22 2013 at 6:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
toddisit

Stop picking on Wal Mart, after all, they are the biggest employer and they pay $9 an hour!

April 22 2013 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to toddisit's comment
Iselin007

Don't forget less than 40 hours because you have to do more and get nothing for it.

April 22 2013 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fortteaneye

And you think $9 an hour is something to be proud of? I do not support and have never shopped at Walmart. By doing so you support low wages and the rest of the public picking up the welfare costs of those "employed" at that place.

June 08 2013 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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