Articles Tagged with “bad faith”

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of Plaintiff, Pamela H., recently filed a federal lawsuit against Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) (a subsidiary of Cigna). The Plaintiff was employed by Purdue University, which made her eligible for Purdue’s long-term disability plan, which was insured by LINA.

In Pamela H. v. Life Insurance Company of North America, the Plaintiff filed a disability lawsuit to gain the long-term disability benefits she deserved under the terms of the LINA policy.

Facts of the Case Against LINA

Plaintiff was employed by Purdue University from December 2004 until she became disabled on July 6, 2014 and unable to work. This was due to lumbar radiculopathy and rheumatoid arthritis. Plaintiff’s treating physicians provided objective medical proof that the Plaintiff was unable to continue working due to these ailments.

Plaintiff filed an application for long-term disability benefits and LINA denied her claim on November 3, 2014.
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Over the years, we have represented numerous employees of Indiana colleges and universities who have become disabled because of serious illnesses such as diabetic neuropathy, lyme disease, degenerative disk disease, multiple sclerosis and lymphoma. A large number of those clients were disabled Purdue employees who had worked for Purdue University for many years, some even decades, before reaching the point where they were no longer able to work because of their medical conditions. Purdue has a very generous employee benefit package so our clients were very surprised and extremely disappointed when their disability claims were either denied outright or prematurely terminated by the insurance company.

stock-photo-3175050-bell-tower.jpgPrudential Insurance Company previously insured Purdue’s long term disability program and now Cigna is the insurance carrier for the Purdue long term disability program, or more specifically Cigna’s subsidiary Life Insurance Company of North America. Many Purdue employees have contacted our office after Cigna denied their claim upon their initial application or when Cigna terminated the benefits before the individual was truly able to return to work.

Cigna typically hires consulting physicians, who never examine our clients, to review the person’s medical records and conclude, contrary to the treating physicians, that the client does not have any restrictions or functional impairments. Cigna then relies upon the conclusions of the consulting physicians to deny legitimate disability claims.

952313_gavel.jpg Indiana law has long recognized that there is a legal duty implied in all insurance contracts that an insurance company must deal in good faith with its insured. Vernon Fire & Cas. Co. v. Sharp, 349 N.E.2d 173 (1976). The Indiana Supreme Court in Erie Ins. Co. v. Hickman, 622 N.E.2d 515 (Ind. 1993) expressly acknowledged the breach of this duty as an independent cause of action under Indiana law. The Court in Erie recognized that a special relationship exists between an insurance company and its insured because of the unique character of an insurance contract, specifically, the insurance company acts as a fiduciary to the insured. “Easily foreseeable is the harm that proximately results to an insured, who has a valid claim and is in need of insurance proceeds after a loss, if good faith is not exercised in determining whether to honor that claim.” The Court in Erie held that “[A]n insured who believes that an insurance claim has been wrongly denied may have available two distinct legal theories, one in contract and one in tort, each with separate although often overlapping, elements, defenses and recoveries.” The Court in Erie explained that a cause of action for the tortious breach of an insurer’s duty to deal with its insured in good faith arises when the insurer:

  1. makes an unfounded refusal to pay policy proceeds;
  2. causes an unfounded delay in making policy payments;