Pilot wins back long-term disability benefits

The 3rd United States Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that American Airlines improperly terminated the long-term disability benefits of a former pilot. The airline pilot experienced a psychotic episode and was no longer able to fly after the episode. Observers of the case say the most important part of the ruling was how the court explained the remedy for when an employee’s long-term benefits are unlawfully terminated.

After being a pilot with American Airlines for 10 years, the plaintiff in the case suffered a psychotic episode in 1998 while he was working. The psychotic episode hospitalized the man and he was unable to return to work. The former pilot started to receive long-term disability pay the following year. The policy was provided by American Airlines and was available to the pilot if a disability prevented him from flying even if he could perform a different job’s duties.


Alan Olson writes this web-log to provide helpful information regarding long-term disability cases. He practices long-term disability law throughout the United States from his offices in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Attorney Olson may be contacted at [email protected] with questions about the information posted here or for advice on specific disability benefit claims.

In 2006 American Airlines indicated to the former pilot that it intended to stop paying long-term disability benefits. The pilot’s doctor provided information that demonstrated the pilot was still receiving treatment and was still unable to handle the duties of being a pilot because of an anxiety disorder. The airline hired its own doctors to review the pilot’s information and came to the conclusion that the pilot was not disabled because he was not receiving psychotherapy and was no longer on medication.

Based on the findings the airline in May 2007 terminated the long-term disability benefits. The court ruled that the former pilot’s benefits should be reinstated back to the time the benefits were terminated.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, “Disability benefits reinstated for pilot,” Shannon P. Duffy, 2/7/11


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