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Owen Sound Long-Term Disability Claim Allowed: Great West Life

The Issue: A recent case illustrates the factors considered by a Court in determining whether an employee qualifies for long-term disability coverage.

This Case Situation

A personal banking officer, a 37 year old married mother of two, worked for the Bank of Nova Scotia for approximately 4 years prior to applying for short-term disability benefits (“STD”) and then long-term disability benefits (“LTD”) as a result of anxiety and depression problems.

Her anxiety was related to panic attacks, which would manifest itself with tightness in her chest, shortness or lack of breath and also becoming disoriented and physically shaking.

There was some evidence of a borderline personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. There were pre-existing issues, but these were under control in large part during the early part of her employment.

She was denied both STD and LTD benefits, resulting in a 6 day Trial to determine whether she was eligible: Dodgson v. Great West Life Assurance Co. et al., 2014 ONSC 389 (CanLII)

The employee appears to have done a good job at the Bank for about 2.5 years before her troubles began.

Starting at Christmas 2007, the employee lost three people in the span of 6 months: a ‘mentor’ at her workplace died; a good friend was killed in a car accident; and then another friend committed suicide.

The employee took time off during this stretch and appears to have experienced problems at work, relating to anxiety and depression, starting from this point forward. She did suffer from longstanding pre-existing anxiety, but it appears that this was largely under control during the initial 2.5 years of her Bank employment.

The employees problems worsened, so that she did not want to deal with people, including her customers (which was a core function of her job).

This further lead to the employee lying and fabricating her own personal work statistics, used as a means of measuring her work performance and productivity.

The employee was given leaves of absences but did not return and was terminated.

There was evidence about her social activities and vacations taken with her family, with some of that information appearing to have been obtained through production in the litigation of her Facebook account.

The employee was active obtaining medical treatment, including being followed by a psychiatrist.

In a thorough Judgment, Mr. Justice Bielby found the plaintiff employee to be entitled to the STD and LTD benefits, and ongoing.

Gregory Chang

Toronto Personal Injury and Insurance Lawyer

Source: Ontario Superior Court, Dodgson v. Great West Life Assurance Co. et al., 2014 ONSC 389 (CanLII) dated January 29, 2014.