A Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded plaintiff Laura Kieffer 4.2 million in damages in her civil lawsuit against Paul Revere Life Insurance Company and Unum Group. The award represented $600,000 in past and future disability benefits, $600,000 in emotion distress and $3 million in punitive damages.
Ms. Kieffer was a dental hygenist in 1988 when she purchased an individual disability policy from Paul Revere. Beginning in 1996 she developed several disabling medical conditions, including carpel tunnel syndrome and cervical pain radiating into her upper extremities, preventing her from being able to perform the repetitive motions and fine hand manipulations necessary for her job.
In March, 2008 after 12 years of paying disability benefits Unum Group terminated her disability benefits. Unum ignored the recommendations of Kieffer’s treating physician who supported her disability and deliberately chose not to wait for the results of an MRI test which would have supported her claim. Unum relied solely on a report of a physician it had examine Ms. Kieffer, which was riddled with mistakes. Unum’s doctor spent only 10 minutes with Ms. Kieffer, not even looking at her right hand, which was the main issue.
The jurors heard about Unum’s settlement with the California Insurance Commissioner in which it promised not to continued claims handling practices which the Commissioner found to be unfair. The jury found that Unum’s continuing use of these unfair practices with Ms. Kieffer were intentional, supporting the award of punitive damages.