Bad Faith Workers’ Comp Denial Results In $42M Verdict
UPS and their workers’ compensation insurer, Liberty Mutual, were forced to pay $42 million to a woman who was injured on the job while working for UPS. $41 million of that was punitive damages alone, which are fixed to a judgment to punish the defendant for particularly egregious conduct. Only $1 million of the verdict was for compensatory damages related to her injuries, lost wages, and other compensable losses under workers’ comp.
In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what happened.
The plaintiff began noticing pain in her groin area, especially while lifting, which was a major part of her job. She believed the issue was related to her woman parts, so she saw a gynecologist. Two weeks later, a laparoscopy noted the existence of a hernia. The worker reported the condition to her employer the very next day. She underwent surgery to repair the damage and returned to work three months later. However, she continued to experience pain in her groin. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor ruled that her hernia was related to her UPS work, but somehow her groin pain was not. She appealed the ruling and it was reversed. The circuit ruled that the injury was compensable with punitive damages for denying the claim in bad faith. The insurance company appealed the decision and the $43 million verdict was vacated, the matter remanded back to the circuit court for review. A second jury heard the case and found in favor of the plaintiff again.
Why attempt to deny this claim?
Insurance companies often say whatever they have to say to avoid paying out a claim. In some cases, it’s just a matter of seeing what they can get away with. If they can get away with it once, then they may be able to get away with it again, denying more claims. If the law permits them to do this without penalty and with reward, then that is exactly what they’re going to do. Meanwhile, someone out there is not getting the money they’re owed and facing serious financial pressures related to both their unpaid medical bills and their loss of wages.
In this case, the insurance company attempted to claim that the original “groin pain” was related to the worker’s duties, but the secondary groin pain after surgery was something else entirely. In other words, they tried to say that she had two conditions. One of those conditions was causing groin pain, and the other condition—that was causing groin pain too. They hired an actual medical expert to make this claim in front of a jury.
While two conditions causing one symptom is not outside the realm of possibility, it is not exactly in alignment with Occam’s Razor either. Doctors would not readily assume that one symptom was related to two conditions, nor would it make sense to ever do so. In other words, this insurance company saved a few hundred thousand dollars by costing themselves $43 million.
Talk to a Miami Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
In cases where insurance companies deny claims in bad faith, you may be able to recover punitive damages against the insurer. Call the Miami workers’ compensation lawyers at Payer Law today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your situation in more detail.