Widow Loses Death Benefits Appeal in Zoloft Case

May 18, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Louisiana federal judge has upheld the ruling of an accidental death benefit plan administrator who refused to pay benefits to the widow of a man who killed himself after taking the anti-depressant Zoloft.

>US District Judge Jay Zainey of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that the administrator didn’t abuse its discretion in not recognizing a link between using Zoloft and committing suicide, according to a BNA report.

>Zainey said the administrator was reasonable in its decision to reject the widow’s claim that her husband’s death was “accidental” because of the side effects of Zoloft.

“Assuming arguendo that there is a causal link between Zoloft and suicide, to the Court’s knowledge no one has suggested that ingesting Zoloft always leads to suicide. As one other court noted many people who take Zoloft do not commit suicide and many people who commit suicide have never taken Zoloft,” Zainey wrote.

>The participant, Bruce Miles, saw his family physician on August 16, 2002, complaining of depression. The physician diagnosed Miles with an “adjustment reaction” to his change in jobs and prescribed Zoloft. Miles later called his wife complaining that he felt physically ill. When Miles’s wife arrived home later that day, she found that Miles had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the ruling.

>Miles’s wife filed a benefits claim under an accidental death benefit plan sponsored by Miles’s employer, Dow Chemical Co. The plan administrator, AIG Life Insurance Co., denied benefits after concluding that Miles’s death was a suicide and thus not “accidental.”

>The case is Miles v. AIG Life Insurance Co., E.D. La., No. 04-1432 Section “A” (2), 4/22/05.