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

FAQ

Do you help Unum claimants nationwide?

We represent Unum clients nationwide and we encourage you to contact us for a FREE immediate phone consultation with one of our experienced disability insurance attorneys.

Can you help with a Unum disability insurance policy?

Our disability insurance lawyers help policy holders seeking short or long term disability insurance benefits from Unum. We have helped thousands of disability insurance claimants nationwide with monthly disability benefits. With more than 40 years of disability insurance experience we have helped individuals in almost every occupation and we are familiar with the disability income policies offered by Unum.

How do you help Unum claimants?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a Unum long term disability insurance policy from an insurance company or obtained short or long term disability insurance coverage as a benefit from their employer.

Our experienced lawyers can assist with Unum:

  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Appeals of Disability Benefit Denials
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Yes. We are a national disability insurance law firm that is available to represent you regardless of where you live in the United States. We have partner lawyers in every state and we have filed lawsuits in most federal courts nationwide. Our disability lawyers represent disability claimants at all stages of a claim for disability insurance benefits. There is nothing that our lawyers have not seen in the disability insurance world.

What are your fees?

Since we represent disability insurance claimants at different stages of a disability insurance claim we offer a variety of different fee options. We understand that claimants living on disability insurance benefits have a limited source of income; therefore we always try to work with the claimant to make our attorney fees as affordable as possible.

The three available fee options are a contingency fee agreement (no attorney fee or cost unless we make a recovery), hourly fee or fixed flat rate.

In every case we provide each client with a written fee agreement detailing the terms and conditions. We always offer a free initial phone consultation and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you in obtaining payment of your disability insurance benefits.

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No. For purposes of efficiency and to reduce expenses for our clients we have found that 99% of our clients prefer to communicate via telephone, e-mail, fax, GoToMeeting.com sessions, or Skype. If you prefer an initial in-person meeting please let us know. A disability company will never require you to come to their office and similarly we are set up so that we handle your entire claim without the need for you to come to our office.

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