Recently, four separate lawsuits were filed at the District Court level against the UNUM Life Insurance Company of America (UNUM) by plaintiffs all over the country. Lawsuits were by disability insurance lawyers in the states of Florida, Illinois Alabama, and South Carolina. The civil actions were instituted against UNUM seeking the recovery of benefits under the various employee welfare benefits plans that it had underwritten and administered and falls within the ambit of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
The First Unum Lawsuit Filed by Florida Disability Lawyer:
The first case was filed by a Florida disability attorney at the District Court for the Middle District of Florida. In Frank Ambrogio v UNUM Life Insurance Company of America, the plaintiff was covered by a welfare benefit plan sponsored by his employer. The plan also provided long term disability insurance benefits through an insurance policy funded and administered by UNUM.
The plaintiff alleged that UNUM had an inherent conflict of interest between its duties as an ERISA fiduciary to the plaintiff and its duties to its shareholder as a profit making entity. The plaintiff alleged that UNUM’s decision to deny disability benefits to the plaintiff was influenced by its conflict of interest. The plaintiff further argued that UNUM didn’t comply with the provisions of ERISA, subjected the plaintiff to an unreasonable claims process and failed to comply with its own internal guidelines, protocols and rules. Having exhausted all administrative remedies, the plaintiff claimed that he is forced to pursue civil action against UNUM to seek to recover disability benefits that he is entitled to under the terms of the welfare benefit plan administered by UNUM.
The Second Unum Lawsuit Filed By Chicago Disability Lawyer:
The case of Linda Brockman v UNUM Life Insurance Company of America was filed at the District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by a Chicago disability attorney. The plaintiff in this case was seeking the reinstatement of long term disability (LTD) benefits pursuant to an insurance policy underwritten by UNUM to provide LTD insurance benefits to employees of Washington University. The plaintiff was working as a Research Patient Coordinator for the School of Medicine at the Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. She stopped working on October 30th 2009 due to debilitating pain and symptoms caused by a myofascial disorder, spinal stenosis.
According to the lawsuit, UNUM initially acknowledged the plaintiff’s disability and paid disability benefits until March 25th 2010. On March 26th 2010, UNUM discontinued LTD benefits to the plaintiff on the ground that she no longer met the plan’s definition of being disabled. Despite appealing UNUM’s decision to terminate the plaintiff’s LTD benefits and submitting extensive medical evidence to support her appeal, UNUM persisted in its refusal to reinstate the plaintiff’s LTD benefits. It is only after exhausting all administrative remedies that the plaintiff is submitting her case for judicial review.
The Third Unum Lawsuit filed by South Carolina Disability Lawyer:
Maronica Dewar v UNUM Life Insurance Company of America was filed by a South Carolina disability attorney at the District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plaintiff in this lawsuit was an employee of a company called Hill-Rom. She was provided LTD coverage under a plan that was fully insured by UNUM. UNUM was also the Claims Administrator for this ERISA plan.
The plaintiff filed a claim with UNUM for LTD benefits after she became disabled. After being denied her claim by UNUM, she appealed and exhausted all administrative remedies provided for under the plan. The plaintiff alleged that UNUM had made the decision to deny her LTD benefits while operating under a conflict of interest by being the Claims Administrator, Insurer and Fiduciary of the plan.
As such, the plaintiff claimed that UNUM’s decision was not based on the substantial evidences before it or based on a principled and reasoned decision making process. The plaintiff alleged that UNUM in making its decision instead relied on biased information, flawed expert opinions and by ignoring relevant evidence concerning the plaintiff’s claim.
The Fourth Unum disability Lawsuit filed by Alabama Disability Lawyer:
Filed at the District Court for the Northern District of Alabama by an Alabama disability lawyer, the plaintiff in Denise E. Jacinto v UNUM Life Insurance Company of America was an employee for the Battelle Memorial Institute as an Office Manager and as a Protection Operations Specialist. One of the benefits that the plaintiff earned as an employee for the Battelle Memorial Institute was a LTD insurance policy that was issued and insured by UNUM.
The plaintiff became disabled as a result of several disabling conditions such as a brain aneurysm and systemic lupus. The plaintiff then applied for benefits as provided for under the LTD plan. The claim was denied by UNUM which the plaintiff later made an appeal to UNUM for review. On March 7th 2011, Unum denied the plaintiff’s appeal. After exhausting all administrative remedies, the plaintiff is suing UNUM for the abuse of its discretion in resolving the plaintiff’s claim for LTD benefits.
Reliefs Sought in the Disability Denial Lawsuits:
In all the above mentioned cases filed, the relief sought was the recovery of past and future benefits, interest, attorney fees and other reliefs deemed just and appropriate by the Courts. However, in the fourth case, the plaintiff was also seeking damages, both actual and compensatory. If the fourth case is governed by ERISA, then the Plaintiff will only be entitled to past due benefits, cost and attorney fee award.