Lawsuit Claims Disability Insurer Sought to Avoid Paying Claims

UnumProvident Corp., the nation’s largest disability insurer, has systematically sought ways to avoid paying claims to millions of California customers, a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit filed in Superior Court by policyholders seeks class-action status. It comes less than one month after the company was ordered to pay $8 million to settle similar charges against the company by California insurance regulators.

The lawsuit seeks billions of dollars in premium refunds and damages for denied claims. The suit also names UnumProvident subsidiary Paul Revere Life Insurance Co.

The lead plaintiff in the case is former Berkeley, Calif., chiropractor Joan Hangarter, who won a unanimous $7.7 million federal jury award after she became disabled by tendinitis and Paul Revere denied her benefits.

Attorney Ray Bourhis said he expects the settlement with state officials to boost his case against Unum-Provident, which settled similar allegations with 48 other states last year.

UnumProvident spokeswoman Mary Clarke Guenther said the previous California settlement should foreclose the new claims.

“We find his latest complaint completely without merit and believe the recent settlement with California makes Bourhis’ charges moot,” she said.