In October 1993, an appeals court judge ruled in Hyatt v. Shalala that a district court’s order to pay $315,083.55 in attorneys’ fees and $28,568.86 in expenses would not be overturned. The district court had found evidence of bad faith and awarded market rate reimbursement of attorneys’ fees to the plaintiff, which the appeals court affirmed. The appeal developed from a nearly decade-long class action lawsuit involving disability cases denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA). An earlier class action suit (Hyatt v. Heckler) entered the courts in Western North Carolina in 1984.
The plaintiffs were either individuals who had been denied disability benefits or had been receiving benefits and then were eventually denied further compensation. Statements and evidence were presented regarding the actions of the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Hyatt v. Heckler lawsuit questioned the Secretary’s regulation of certain disabilities. The key areas the suit addressed included manifestations of pain, diabetes and hypertension, and discontinuance of disability benefits with no evidence of a recipient’s allegedly improved condition.
Through the appeals process, Hyatt v. Shalala ultimately affirmed that the SSA erroneously applied the law in Social Security Disability cases throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Tens of thousands of individuals affected by these errors could qualify for past due and future disability benefits. According to court documents:
Since October 5, 1981, in North Carolina, DDS has adjudicated approximately 165,000 claims, of which approximately 99,000 were denials or terminations. During 1983, prior to September 7, 1983, DDS had terminated the Social Security disability benefits of approximately 106 North Carolinians per week. The total number of terminations since October 15, 1981, is approximately 15,000.
Future court orders require the SSA to review over 75,000 cases.
SSA released an important class action notice alerting eligible individuals of the opportunity to have their disability case reconsidered. Individuals who were denied Social Security Disability benefits and who received the class action announcement only had 120 days to respond and request a reconsideration from the SSA. Individuals should request a ‘Hyatt Review’ from the SSA and can contact our North Carolina Social Security Disability attorneys for a complimentary case evaluation. These cases are generally very difficult to prove. Before submitting an application for disability, applicants should do their due diligence and consult an attorney experienced in this area of law. Our firm has a Board Certified Social Security Disability Benefits Specialist dedicated to cases like this, and he has successfully represented 'Hyatt Cases.'