A California jury awarded $31.7 million to a California eye surgeon and said that UnumProvident Corp. had acted with fraud and malice when it denied his disability payments, Monday’s Wall Street Journal reported.
The jury in a state court in San Rafael said UnumProvident breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing and awarded Randall H. Chapman $1.7 million in past and future disability benefits and emotional distress and $30 million in punitive damages.
A spokesman for UnumProvident said the company strongly disagreed with the jury decision and that it planned to file motions for posttrial relief and, if necessary, an appeal.
The jury award comes as the claims practices of UnumProvident, the nation’s largest disability insurer, are being scrutinized by state regulators in California, Georgia and Tennessee. Lawyers for policy holders who have sued the Chattanooga, Tenn., company contend UnumProvident has been overzealous in denying claims. In November, a federal judge in California said the company had “a comprehensive system for targeting and terminating expensive claims.”
The insurer, which is appealing the California case, maintains that it pays all legitimate claims and that critics have distorted its approach, which is geared toward getting employees back to work.
In his complaint against the company, Dr. Chapman said that in 1999 he developed anxiety and tremors that prevented him from performing surgery.