Federal Court Orders Unum to Release Documents Following Disability Insurance Denial

Recently, Unum was ordered by a Florida Federal District Court to immediately produce documents which it claimed were protected by the Attorney-Client Privilege. This is a case where the Judge essentially told Unum that under ERISA regulations, Unum claims examiners have a greater duty to their own insured rather than their own in-house attorneys.

Unum Disability Lawsuit Case History

The Plaintiff, a former employee for a health management corporation, brought suit pursuant to ERISA, against her former employer, as the administrator of her ERISA governed long-term disability plan (the “Plan”) and Unum Life Insurance Company of America (“Unum”), as a fiduciary of the Plan, for denying her claim to long-term disability benefits.

During the initial stages of the long term disability benefits lawsuit, the Plaintiff and Unum were required, by a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, to disclose to one another various documents pertaining to the Plaintiff’s claim. Along with its disclosures, Unum produced a Privilege Log, a document which the Federal Rules require be provided to the other party when it refuses to disclose specific documents it claims to be in some way privileged and protected from disclosure. Among the “privileged” items in the log were four documents containing communications made between Unum’s claims personnel and its in-house lawyers prior to Unum’s final decision to deny benefits. Following receipt of the log, the Plaintiff’s attorney sent Unum’s lawyers a letter requesting that they release the documents it was claiming were privileged. Despite the Plaintiff’s letter, Unum continued to maintain its assertion that the documents were privileged and refused to disclose them. The Plaintiff had little choice but to seek the assistance and intervention of the Federal Court in compelling the production of the documents in question.

Motion Filed Compelling Unum To Release Documents

In their motion to compel production and request for an in camera inspection of the documents, the Plaintiff argued, in part, that the documents in question were not protected by the attorney-client privilege since, 1) the documents immediately preceded the transmission of the claim decision and were likely internal evaluations of the actions taken by the claim representative asking for the claim to be reconsidered and paid, thus relating directly to the claims decision, and 2) since Unum is acting in a fiduciary capacity, the fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege applied, which meant that Unum’s duty to act in the exclusive interest of the beneficiaries supersedes its right to claim attorney client privilege over the documents.

Federal Court Refuses To Allow Unum To Rely On The Attorney Client Privlege

After hearing arguments by the Plaintiff and Unum and reviewing the documents in question, the Federal Court ordered that all four documents were discoverable because they were part of the claims administration process and concerned action by Unum in its fiduciary capacity in which Unum has a greater duty to its policyholders, than to its own in-house attorneys and claims personnel. The Federal Court ordered Unum to produce for inspection and copy the four documents within ten days of its order. This specific claim was not handled by Attorneys Dell & Schaefer.

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There are 2 comments

  • KGT,

    This is just one case and unfortunately it will not change the way UNUM does things in all 50 states. In most cases UNUM does release the complete claim file, but every now and then you get a situation where they intentionally hold something back.

    Gregory DellJan 2, 2013  #2

  • Hello-very informative post about Unum and their witholding of documents. So since this case was decided in Federal court will Unum now be required to release the complete claim file when a claimant is appealing a denial in all 50 states? Would you be able to provide the case information (Ms. X versus Unum etc) related to this info? Thank you.

    KGTDec 31, 2012  #1

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Steve Dell has done an exceptional job with my disability application process. The firm is extremely well managed. They have acquired an incredible amount of experience over many years. I recommend them for disability insurance claims without reservation. 

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I called this firm a few months ago completely disparaged due to a company cutting off disability benefits at a time that nearly caused me to lose everything.

Attorney Alex Palmera and Danielle worked hard to reach an amicable settlement and my case was settled a few months later. This is a good firm and the specific expertise in disability claims saved me countless hours of hassle at a time when an already fragile state existed.

Thank you Mr. Palamara and Danielle.

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They did a fantastic job communicating between the provider and me, always keeping my best interest at heart and always answering my many many questions. They really did take most of the stress out of this whole situation. I would give them a 10 out of 10 for every step of this crazy journey. Thank you so much for helping me through this.

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Greg Dell and his assistant Anneli have been extremely responsive and helpful, not only our initial consultations, but in follow-ups 1 and 2 years later with the insurance company to ensure that they comply with their agreements (which they did), as well as a separate and only slightly-related inquiry about our health insurance. I always hear back from them very quickly, which is rare and greatly appreciated.

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After a very long and frustrating ordeal to keep my LTD payments coming I decided to seek assistance from and attorney. After much research and asking those in the legal profession Dell & Schaefer seemed to be the top choice. I reached out and Alex Palamara was the attorney assigned to my case. All I can say is the experience was outstanding. Both Alex and his Paralegal, Danielle Lauria were excellent to work with. They were very kind, concerned, understanding of my frustrations and treated me with the utmost respect. Communication was excellent with regular updates and telling me what I could expect in each stage of the process.

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