Barbara Arnold

A federal district court has recently ruled in favor of a Lyme patient, ordering that a claim for Social Security disability benefits is viable even when laboratory evidence falls short of two-tiered testing criteria. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has issued a published order, stating that laboratory findings of limited antibody reactivity to Borrelia burgdorferi, when interpreted by a treating physician, meet the evidentiary threshold for proving a “medically determinable impairment” under Social Security law. The written ruling, authored by Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan, states that laboratory evidence such as that referenced in ILADS guidelines provides legally sufficient “objective evidence” to support a treating physician’s clinical assessment that the patient suffered from disabling Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

The Plaintiff in the case, Kelly Moores, found her capacity to work cut short by the onset of symptoms of tick-borne illness. As is common for many Lyme patients, Ms. Moores encountered difficulty and delay in obtaining diagnosis and treatment, and was eventually diagnosed with tick-borne illness by Eleanor Hynote MD of Napa, California. Dr. Hynote, a former ILADS member, passed away suddenly while the case was pending. Fortunately, the Plaintiff’s attorney had previously recorded Dr. Hynote’s responses to detailed questions about the particular medical findings that led to the diagnosis, and thus laid the groundwork for the court’s ruling.

The ruling is a first of its kind, in that it is a published, citable court order in which laboratory findings in keeping with the ILADS standards are deemed a sufficient legal basis for a federal disability claim. This means a federal district court has now issued an order consistent with a number of state laws, which recognize the validity of clinical-focused diagnostic criteria for Lyme disease, where laboratory findings play a supportive, but not determinative, role. Calif. Bus. & Prof. § 2234.1, Conn. Stat. Ann. § 20-14m; Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1646; Mass. G. L. ch. 112, § 12DD; New Hamp. H.B. 295 § 157; N.Y. Pub. Health § 230, 9-b; R.I. Gen. L. § 5-37.5-6; Vermont 18 V.S.A. § 1793; Virginia Code Ann. § 54.1-2963.2. The authority of the present case is currently limited to the jurisdiction in which the order was issued. However, the order can be cited as persuasive authority for claims arising in other jurisdictions. The case citation is Moores v. Colvin, 173 F. Supp. 3d 989 (E.D. Calif. 2016). Barbara Arnold, Esq., of Oakland, California, ably represented the Plaintiff.