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Canadian insurance company denies disability claim, cites care for son in decision

WATCH ABOVE: Sun Life has terminated long-term disability benefits to a Georgetown, Ont., mother. The company claimed she's well enough to work because she is able to care for her disabled son. Sean O'Shea reports.

A major Canadian insurance company is denying long-term disability coverage to an Ontario woman, citing that if she is well enough to care for her son, she should be fit enough to report for work.

Sandra Bullock works in an administration role for a large company in downtown Toronto. Her doctors have determined that she is unable to work because of an anxiety disorder and other physical health issues.

However, after paying her benefits for a year, Sun Life Financial terminated the coverage. The company argued she ought to be able to work because she is able to care for her disabled nine-year-son, Jacob.

The young boy was born with an extra chromosome and has the mental development of someone who is about two years old. He is still in diapers, is not verbal, and he requires extensive, attentive care.

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“My son can’t care for himself, I don’t have a choice,” Bullock told Global News in an interview.

She is suing Sun Life for $5.53 million, including the return of her benefits and other damages. Her lawyer filed a statement of claim earlier this month in the Superior Court of Justice. The allegations are unproven.

Bullock’s lawyer said long-term disability should provide a “safety net” to customers.

“All of her treating doctors say Sandra is not capable of returning to work,” said James Fireman, who is representing Bullock.

He said it is shocking that an insurance company would use someone’s ability to care for a child as a reason not to pay benefits.

Sun Life would not discuss the particulars of Bullock’s case, citing privacy. It has not yet filed a statement of defence with the court.

“We are sincerely concerned about Sandra’s health and well-being, her case being our primary focus,” said Gannon Loftus, director of corporate communications for Sun Life Financial, in a written statement to Global News.

“Our teams are reviewing the matter and working towards an appropriate resolution.”

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In the meantime, Bullock has no employment income or disability benefits to support her family, which includes another son.

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