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Ohio Bad Faith Insurance Lawyers Representing Those Denied Medical Benefits from Assurant Health
Had Jerome Mitchell not hired a lawyer to defend his rights against Assurant Health (formerly known as Fortis) in 2002, he might not still be alive. When the 17-year-old college freshman learned he had contracted HIV, he thought that his one saving grace would be the health insurance he purchased on his own before entering school. So the young man was shocked when he found out that his health insurance had been revoked, a practice called rescission. Left with no way to pay for his much-needed medical treatments, Jerome turned to Sallie Phelan, a personal injury lawyer, and eventually filed a lawsuit against Assurant. Jerome did not want to have to sue Assurant; he was only seeking health care to prevent his HIV from becoming full-blown AIDS.
As the lawsuit later showed, Fortis, now known as Assurant Health, did not only revoke Jerome's health insurance policy, but it went out of its way to destroy evidence against any wrongdoing. Assurant ignored his attorney's letters, as it had earlier inquiries from a case worker at a local clinic that was helping him. In the lawsuit decision against Assurant, Judge Michael G. Nettles asserted that, a "pattern of secrecy and concealment by Fortis [Assurant] in this case ... supports a high award of punitive damages." This secrecy and concealment included deleting records, omitting key pieces of telephone conversations, and shredding documents. The company's "stated policy for the last nine years has been to microfilm and destroy all documents."
Assurant canceled Jerome's health insurance based on a single erroneous note from a nurse in his medical records that dated his HIV diagnosis from the year prior to obtaining his insurance policy. Had Assurant's investigators continued to review Jerome's medical records a little further to confirm or refute this note, they would have found the records that correctly placed Mitchell's HIV diagnosis in 2002 and not in 2001, when he purchased his policy. However, Assurant immediately ceased further investigation and branded the claim as fraudulent, despite the doubts expressed by the very underwriter who discovered the incorrect note. Their motive, according to the judge, was obvious: "The court finds that Fortis [Assurant] wrongfully elevated its concerns for maximizing profits over the rights and interest of its customer."
In 2004, a lawsuit jury in Florence County, South Carolina, ordered Assurant Health to pay Mitchell $15 million for wrongly revoking his health insurance policy. The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the lower court's verdict after an appeal trial in 2009, although the court reduced the amount to be paid to Jerome to $10 million. By winning the verdict against Assurant, Mitchell not only obtained a measure of justice for himself, he also helped expose wrongdoing on the part of Fortis that could have repercussions for the entire health insurance industry.
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The lawyers at Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz L.P.A. want to help other victims of Assurant rescission get the justice they deserve as well. If you think your health insurance policy was canceled unfairly, contact us today or call us at 1-800-223-8897.