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Teacher with Debilitating Injuries Twice Denied Disability Insurance

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Riverside, CAA school teacher in California who stepped in to help prevent a second fight between two teenage students on school premises and was subsequently injured has launched a lawsuit against the insurance carrier who twice denied disability insurance to the woman.

According to a report published in The Desert Sun (3/26/14), plaintiff Melissa Labayog encountered two students engaged in fisticuffs at Summit High, a continuation school located in La Quinta. The altercation had pretty much concluded by the time Labayog arrived on the scene the day of the fight, in 2012. However, the teacher, in an attempt to prevent a further altercation, stepped in and proceeded to direct one of the students to a classroom, separating the two antagonists.

At that point, according to Labayog’s denied ERISA disability claim, the other student approached Labayog from behind and delivered a blow to her head with his fist. Startled and hurt, Labayog fell hard to the floor in the hallway of the school and struck her head on the cement floor.

As a result of the blows to the head, Labayog sustained a traumatic brain injury as well as nerve damage. In her California ERISA-denied claim, Labayog asserts that she suffers recurring nose bleeds, violent headaches and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Labayog subsequently lost vision in her right eye and a 60 percent hearing loss in her right ear.

While the plaintiff continues to teach, at a different school, Labayog nonetheless filed a disability insurance claim with Prudential for “accidental death or dismemberment.” Labayog and her lawyers argue that the language entitles her to compensation for her partial blindness and thus, in accordance with California Insurance Law, claimant should be entitled to $502,000 in compensation for her ongoing loss.

Labayog’s former employers at Summit High confirmed that the incident occurred as Labayog described. The plaintiff also notes that a collection of 10 different physicians have confirmed that the blow to the head caused Labayog’s partial blindness, together with the other issues.

However, according to the report, Prudential twice denied disability insurance to Labayog without questioning any of the doctors involved in Labayog’s diagnosis.

“To twice reject a claim as obvious as this suggests that one of the largest insurance companies on Earth is trying to take advantage of a woman who was made severely disabled,” stated a news release issued by Labayog’s legal team. Taking the high road on the issue, Labayog has no issue with either the student who delivered the initial blow to her head - causing her to fall - the school or the Desert Sands Unified School District, which employs her.

All she is asking for is compensation to offset the ongoing chronic difficulties she now suffers as a result of the 2012 incident, while she attempts to continue her teaching career. Labayog is not claiming that she can no longer work. She does claim, however, that partial blindness, hearing loss, debilitating headaches and recurring nose bleeds - complicated by PTSD - makes earning a living much more difficult, for which there should be compensation.

Prudential has twice stamped her file long-term disability denied, in spite of the foregoing.

Labayog filed her lawsuit with help from her California denied disability insurance lawyer, in Riverside. The case is Melissa Labayog v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, case No. 5:2014cv00735, and was filed April 16 at California Central District Court.


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