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Hoppman v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 12, 2018

VALERIE HOPPMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign business corporation, Defendant.

          CRAIG A. CRISPIN ASHLEY A, MARTON Crispin Employment Lawyers Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          JAMES M. BARRETT KELLY S. RIGGS Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's Motion (#24) for Summary Judgment. The Court concludes the record is sufficiently developed, and, therefore, oral argument is unnecessary.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from the Joint Statement of Agreed Facts (#44), pleadings, and summary-judgment materials filed by the parties and are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.

         In 2003 Plaintiff Valerie Hoppman began working for Safeco as a Senior Claims Representative. In 2006 Plaintiff began working for Safeco remotely from home Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In 2009 Safeco was acquired by Defendant. Plaintiff continued working as a Complex Claims Resolution Specialist for Defendant. Plaintiff also continued to work remotely from home and was assigned to a team of claims representatives. Plaintiff reported to a Claims Team Manager who provided direction primarily by telephone or email.

         In November 2014 Plaintiff contends she began feeling “overwhelmed” with the amount of work she was expected to complete. Plaintiff alleges she contacted Cary Henspeter, her supervisor at that time, and told Henspeter about her anxiety and stress.

         In December 2014 Plaintiff took medical leave for a low-back condition.

         In January 19, 2015, Plaintiff's treating physician, Kristina Harp, M.D., signed a medical note indicating Plaintiff was able to return to work on February 1, 2015, and “may work 8 [hours a] day with scheduled breaks.”

         In February 2015 Plaintiff returned to work. Plaintiff contends when she returned to work she advised Henspeter of her work restrictions, i.e., that she was only permitted to work up to 40 hours per week with scheduled breaks. Henspeter does not recall receiving Dr. Harper's note or otherwise learning that Plaintiff had any work restrictions.

         In July 2015 Plaintiff was transferred to a new Claims Team Manager, Donna Fromm. Although Fromm was aware of Plaintiff's prior medical leave, Defendant contends Fromm was not aware of Plaintiff having any work restrictions at that time and Plaintiff does not recall telling Fromm about her 40-hour work-week restriction.

         On September 11, 2015, Fromm counseled Plaintiff about a “rush” request for a settlement amount that was in excess of Fromm's settlement authority. Plaintiff responded:

Thanks. I am trying to keep up the best I can. There is just too much work and not enough time. When I returned to work, my doctors said it was ok to work up to 40 hours a week with scheduled breaks. Well, my workload demands are far in excess of 40 hours a week. I don't know what the solution is, but this situation is pretty discouraging.

         On October 8, 2015, Plaintiff again emailed Fromm about her workload and asked to be “taken off claims” for two weeks. Fromm complied with Plaintiff's request and did not assign any new claims to her during that time.

         Following Plaintiff's email on October 8, 2015, Plaintiff had only general conversations with Fromm about her work.

         On October 22, 2015, Dr. Harp took Plaintiff off work “due to medical issues” from October 23, 2015, through November 22, 2015.

         On October 25, 2015, Plaintiff applied for short-term disability benefits through Defendant's disability plan administered by Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (Liberty Life). Plaintiff's request was approved, and she received short-term disability benefits from October 25, 2016, through April 2016.

         During this medical leave Plaintiff periodically reported to Fromm that her doctor had not released her to return to work. The parties agree Plaintiff made those reports on November 20, 2015; December 7, 2015; December 31, 2015; January 29, 2016; and February 29, 2016.

         On December 7, 2015, Plaintiff sent an email to Laurie Whalen, a Leave Associate in Defendant's Human Resources Support Center, and copied Fromm on the email. Plaintiff stated: “I am requesting accommodations regarding my job duties under the ADA due to depression which has been diagnosed by my doctor. The medical records have already been provided.” The parties agree this was a request for accommodation. Whalen advised Plaintiff to contact Allyson Jay, an Employee Relations Specialist for Defendant, regarding “the option for an ADA.”

         On December 9, 2015, Plaintiff contacted Jay about the December 7, 2015, request and Jay responded:

It is my understanding that you currently are out on a pending STD [short term disability] claim? Do you have an anticipated return to work date? Certainly we are open to talking through what would help you performance [sic] the functions of your role as a Claims Specialist once you are able to return to work but first and foremost we want you to be well while out ...

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