United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, Judge
before the Court are Plaintiff Curtis Bowman's Motion for
Leave to Amend Original Complaint (Doc. 36) and Brief in
Support (Doc. 37); a Response in Opposition (Doc. 38), filed
by Defendant Prudential Insurance Company of America
("Prudential"); and a Reply (Doc. 39), filed by Mr.
Bowman. For the reasons explained herein, the Motion for
Leave to Amend is DENIED as futile, and the case will be
dismissed with prejudice.
Bowman is a highly educated professional. He holds a law
degree and is a certified public accountant
("CPA"). In the year 2000, he purchased a long-term
disability insurance policy offered through The American
Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The policy,
serviced by Prudential, offered a maximum benefit of $6, 000
per month. Mr. Bowman asserts that he never missed a payment
on the policy.
point, Mr. Bowman became President of Bowman &
Associates, which is a CPA firm located in Mountain Home,
Arkansas. According to the Complaint (Doc. 1), he became
depressed sometime in October of 2014 and sought medical care
from Dr. Thomas Walden. He was diagnosed with depression,
generalized anxiety disorder, and insomnia disorder. Then on
January 1, 2015, Mr. Bowman attempted to commit suicide by
intentionally overdosing on Effexor, an antidepressant. He
was transported by ambulance to Baxter County Regional
Medical Center, where he was monitored overnight and released
the following day. On January 2, 2015, Mr. Bowman took some
time off from his job running his CPA firm, on his
doctor's advice, and sought therapy and medical care for
his depression. He returned to work on January 26, 2015, all
the while taking various medications that his doctors had
prescribed, and continuing to attend regular appointments
with his doctors. On or about February 1, 2015, however, he
and his doctors determined that his mental health was not
improving, and, as of February 6, 2015, he stepped down from
his position at the head of the CPA firm that bore his name.
Mr. Bowman then placed both his law and CPA licenses in
March of 2015, Mr. Bowman filed a claim for disability
benefits under the long-term disability policy serviced by
Prudential, and he provided the company with proof of his
mental illness. Based on the information supplied by his
treating doctors, Prudential approved his request for
benefits on June 4, 2015, and began paying him $4, 000 per
month. See Doc. 1-6. In a letter dated June 12,
2015, Prudential informed Mr. Bowman that his benefits were
being raised to the maximum of $6, 000 per month.
See Doc. 1-7.
months passed, and on November 13, 2015, Prudential notified
Mr. Bowman in a letter that it was currently reviewing his
claim for benefits. It asked him to: (1) provide a completed
form entitled "Activities of Daily Living Request";
(2) call Prudential's office to provide a current update
on his medical condition; (3) ensure that his treating
providers, Drs. Walden and Brown, supplied Prudential with
copies of his medical records from October 1, 2015, through
the present; and (4) complete a "Capacity
Questionnaire." (Doc. 1-8, p. 1). Even though the letter
asked Mr. Bowman to provide all this information by February
11, 2016, Mr. Bowman asserts that his benefits were cut off
without explanation in late December of 2015. What he
neglects to mention in the body of his Complaint is that his
treating psychiatrist, Dr. Walden, sent a letter to
Prudential on December 15, 2015-which is attached to the
Complaint-that stated that "nothing has changed"
with regard to Mr. Bowman's status, and that he declined
to provide further information at this time, as
"disability evaluation and continuous updating of
disability status is not within the scope of services
rendered at our clinic." (Doc. 1-12).
after this time, Mr. Bowman began calling Prudential multiple
times a week to ask why his benefits were being terminated.
He did so from about December 29, 2015, through January 25,
2016. At some point during this time, his benefits were
reinstated. Call logs attached to the Complaint (Doc. 1-9, p.
14) indicate that certain medical records from Drs. Walden
and Brown were faxed to Prudential on February 4, 2016. On or
about February 16, 2016, a Prudential representative told Mr.
Bowman by phone that his disability claim was under review,
but that his benefits would be extended through February 29,
2016. Id. at 15. This "end date" for
receiving benefits was revised again on February 25, 2016,
when a Prudential agent informed Mr. Bowman that the review
of his claim was ongoing, but that he would be paid benefits
through September 30, 2016. Id. at 19. Mr. Bowman
asserts that the constant uncertainty surrounding the review
of his disability claim caused him to experience severe
about June 29, 2016, an adjuster working for Prudential named
MaryStratton contacted Mr. Bowman and asked him several
questions regarding his medical condition and the last day
that he worked at his CPA firm for wage or profit. It appears
there arose a dispute between Prudential and Mr. Bowman at
that time as to whether Prudential had appropriately logged
Mr. Bowman's last day of work as having occurred in early
2015, rather than in late 2014. This dispute was important
because the amount of benefits owed under the policy was
calculated by considering the policyholder's average
income for the years prior to the last day of work. If, for
example, an insured's last day of work was in 2015,
rather than 2014, the insured's calculation of benefits
would be different, and also, the insured would be permitted
to take advantage of a policy change implemented by
Prudential for claims made in 2015, which effectively
increased the total number of years that an insured could
Stratton also asked Mr. Bowman, during that same phone call
on June 29, what it was, specifically, about being a lawyer
and accountant that he could no longer perform-since he
admitted that he was perfectly able to work as an adjunct
professor, teaching law at the local college. Mr. Bowman
responded to Ms. Stratton that it was "too difficult to
deal with attorneys and tax returns, " and that he
"gets shivers just thinking about it." Id.
at 22. He explained that "teaching is a lot different .
. . more low key with less anxiety and [is] enjoyable for him
and fulfilling." Id.
September 9, 2016, Ms. Stratton penned a follow-up letter to
Mr. Bowman, in which she advised him that the internal review
of his medical file had been completed, and Prudential had
decided to terminate his long-term disability benefits. The
As noted above, based on the internal psychiatrist's
review of the updated medical records on file, you have been
psychiatrically stable since April of 2016. The current
medical records do not support any psychiatric impairment
that would preclude you from performing the material and
substantial duties of your own occupation.
(Doc. 1-10, p. 3).
reviewing psychiatrist was Dr. Kevin Hayes. He reviewed the
medical reports provided by Mr. Bowman's treating
physicians and noted that although Mr. Bowman continued to
receive follow-up monitoring and take medications for both
anxiety and depression, his condition had remained stable
since his suicide attempt, and he had not relapsed. Dr. Hayes
observed that since the suicide attempt, Mr. Bowman had
maintained a seemingly healthy lifestyle and had found
part-time work that he found enjoyable, teaching classes
about ten hours per week at the local college. See
Doc. 1 -11, p. 31. Dr. Hayes also determined that Mr. Bowman:
(1) was maintaining basic psychiatric stability by continuing
with his regular medication, (2) had denied any depressive
symptoms or excessive anxiety since his suicide attempt, (3)
reported stable sleeping habits to his doctors, (4) only saw
his doctors every three or four months, (5) served on the
board of the chamber of commerce along with teaching college
classes every semester, (6) had reported to his therapist,
Dr. Brown, that he was enjoying life and planning two
excursions, and (7) had reported to his psychiatrist, Dr.
Walden, that the only anxiety-producing event he had
experienced lately was when Prudential cut off his disability
benefits for a brief period of time in December of 2015.
Id. at 32-33.
reviewing the medical file, Dr. Hayes surmised that Mr.
Bowman was suffering from "professional burnout, "
rather than a continuing, debilitating psychiatric condition.
Id. at 34. In addition, Dr. Hayes noted that he had
attempted to contact Drs. Walden and Brown at their shared
office to discuss Mr. Bowman's case, but was told by a
receptionist/office manager that they "would not speak
to [Dr. Hayes] re any disability-related issue."
Id.; Doc. 1-9, p. 23. Instead, Drs. Walden and Brown
supplied Prudential with their clinical notes from their
visits with Mr. Bowman over the last few months, and with
identical, rather cursory, one-sentence letters addressed to
Ms. Stratton, that each read: "My opinion regarding Mr.
Bowman's disability status has not changed since our last
communication." (Docs. 1-14, 1-15).
September 23, 2016, Mr. Bowman's attorney sent a letter
to Ms. Stratton, demanding reinstatement of Mr. Bowman's
benefits. On September 26, 2016, Prudential denied the demand
in writing. Then, on October 3, 2016, Mr. Bowman sent a
letter of appeal to Prudential. Mr. Bowman admits that it is
Prudential's stated policy to review any appeal within 45
days; however, Mr. Bowman filed suit in this Court on October
27, 2016, only 24 days after filing his appeal, and before a
decision on the appeal had been made. Mr. Bowman also filed a
Motion for Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary
Injunction (Doc. 6) in this Court shortly after filing the
Complaint, in an effort to force Prudential to immediately
resume making benefit payments to Mr. Bowman while the merits
of the case were still ...