According to Courthouse News Service (4/2/13), the plaintiff, Tanya Mondolo, was awarded $119,000 in attorneys’ fees following her denied disability lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and was found in favor of Mondolo in January 2013. Courthouse News Service notes the court found Unum acted “irrationally and illogically” in denying the plaintiff her benefits, making the company’s conduct “culpable.”
Mondolo reportedly asked for $135,000, while Unum said it should pay $50,000 arguing Mondolo’s request was based on an inflated rate. The judge considered numerous factors including how culpable the defendant was in its behavior, whether the attorneys’ fees would act as a deterrent and the merits of the two sides. Ultimately, the judge lowered the attorneys’ fees but still awarded more than double what Unum argued it should pay in the case.
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Claims against life insurance companies such as Unum tend to allege the company practices bad faith insurance by denying legitimate insurance claims on dubious grounds. Sometimes, the denial involves rejecting or ignoring recommendations of the policyholder’s physician. In other cases, the insurance company claims the plaintiff is capable of working, without considering the specific duties involved in the job or the limitations caused by the policyholder’s injury.
The Mondolo lawsuit is Mondolo v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Amer., CV-11-07435 CAS (MRWx) (C.D. Cal. 2013).