A federal court jury in Las Vegas returned unanimous verdicts last week against Paul Revere Life Insurance Company and UnumProvident Corporation (Unum Group) in the partial retrial of a lawsuit originally tried to verdict in 2004. In the 2004 trial, the jury awarded $1.6 Million in compensatory damages and $10 Million in punitive damages to G. Clinton Merrick in connection with the insurers' denial of his disability claim. The insurers appealed and the punitive award was ultimately sent back for retrial before a new jury. Merrick v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 500 F.3d 1007, C.A.9 (Nev.), 2007.
In last week's verdict, the jury ordered Paul Revere Life Insurance Co. to pay $24 Million and UnumProvident Corporation was ordered to pay $36 Million. The punitive damage verdict of $60 Million is six times the previous amount that had been appealed by the insurers following the 2004 trial.
Trial Lawyer Rick Friedman alleged that improper claims handling practices begun at Provident were brought to Paul Revere and influenced its claim handling with respect to Merrick's claim both before the initial denial and afterward. These practices at the Unum Group of disability insurers have been the subject of media scrutiny including exposés on 60 Minutes and Dateline NBC as well as in multiple governmental investigations. "The jury heard evidence of a fifteen year scheme to cheat disabled people," said Rick Friedman, Merrick's lead trial attorney. "The money made off this scheme is in the hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. Jury after jury, and regulator after regulator has condemned their practices, but still they continue." According to Friedman, "the verdicts will keep coming until their practices change."