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The Machinations of a Long Term Disability Denied Lawsuit

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Baltimore, MDA recent Long term disability denied lawsuit out of Maryland provides some insight into the machinations that often stem from a legal dispute over denied benefits. For years, insurers have been accused of practicing bad faith when benefits, duly qualified and paid for through a policy in good standing, are systematically denied or terminated allegedly without just cause.

One case in particular that recently wound its way through the courts pitted a mortgage executive against UNUMProvident Corp., a provider still trying to wriggle out from under previous allegations of unfairness and bad faith insurance.

The case is HSK v. UNUMProvident Corporation et al, suit number 1:12-cv-03373, in the US District Court for the District of Maryland. The unnamed plaintiff identified only by the initials HSK complained in an October 2012 lawsuit that Provident Life & Accident Insurance Co., a subsidiary of UNUM, had duly provided monthly benefits from March 2011 until June of that year, when the benefits were abruptly halted after just three months.

The bad faith insurance lawsuit, originally filed in Baltimore but removed to federal court in November 2012, alleges that UNUM and its subsidiary breached its responsibilities to provide benefits under the terms of the policy. The plaintiff sought $250,000 in damages. “Benefits were initially approved and paid for three months, but thereafter the claim was denied when the plaintiff declined to attend an ‘independent’ psychiatric examination by a psychiatrist hired by UNUM,” attorneys for the plaintiff said in a court filing.

In October of last year, the plaintiff in the case filed a motion for sanctions against the defendant, claiming that UNUM’s legal council had instructed UNUM’s in-house attorney not to answer questions during a deposition, in spite of the fact the questions were of a nature that fell within the scope for which the attorney had been designated to testify. HSK also alleged that UNUM’s lawyers improperly objected to questions during that same deposition.

HSK also claimed, in the motion for sanctions, that UNUM’s in-house attorney had been afforded various notes and other pieces of information from other employees of UNUM, including the vice-president of the firm and UNUM’s corporate secretary - and that the in-house council had destroyed those notes prior to his deposition. Another allegation surrounded a claim that UNUM’s in-house attorney had produced a document during deposition that recast the relationship between UNUM and its subsidiary Provident, together with the suggestion that UNUM was, in fact, not at all liable for the insurance contract between plaintiff HSK and Provident. The document, it was alleged, contradicted evidence in the record pertaining to the relationship between UNUM and Provident.

UNUM denied all the aforementioned allegations.

In the end, the judge hearing the case - US Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan - granted the requested sanctions in part, noting the refusals to answer certain questions were inappropriate given that the questions were indeed appropriate. “I find that the questions asked of [UNUM in-house council J. Paul Jullienne] during the deposition were within the scope of the topics set forth in the notice and that it may be necessary to reconvene the deposition,” the judge said in an order.

As for the accusation of destruction of notes, the judge agreed that the attorney had destroyed the notes he had created in preparation for deposition improperly. However, the magistrate deemed the matter was better left in the hands of a jury, by way of an adverse jury instruction about the spoliation of evidence at trial.

UNUM maintained that notes taken by its in-house attorney during conversations with other UNUM employees were nothing more than an attempt to collect his thoughts and prepare for the deposition, and nothing more. In the end, the judge decided sanctions over that particular allegation were inappropriate, and would be best left to the jury to decide in the Long term denied disability lawsuit.

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