Federal judge OKs class action status for suit against Unum Group

A federal judge Tuesday granted class-action status to a lawsuit that contends Unum Group, the nation’s largest disability insurer, schemed to deny or terminate claims of thousands of disabled Americans.

Jim Sabourin, a spokesman for the Chattanooga-based company, described the order as “procedural.” He said “it has nothing to do with the merits” of the 2003 lawsuit. The suit contends Unum Group violated the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, in claims handling, partly by creating secret documents in which non-medical employees set a “target date for cutting off future disability payments.”

The lawsuit was filed before 2004, when insurance regulators in 49 states agreed to settle an investigation of Unum Group’s claims handling, Sabourin said. That agreement required Unum Group, formerly UnumProvident, to reconsider about 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. The company in March changed its name to Unum Group, which includes subsidiaries Unum Life Insurance Co. of America, Paul Revere Life Insurance Co., Unum National Insurance Co., and Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co.

Sabourin said the company as part of the 2004 agreement is almost finished reassessing claims denials and terminations. “It’s a procedural ruling focused solely on class certification,” Sabourin said. “The relief sought is exactly what we have been doing in the reassessment process through the past two years.” He said that of the reassessed claims “about 30 percent” of the initial decisions were changed.

The order signed by U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier shows the suit was filed by seven plaintiffs who are “insured under group long-term disability benefit plans’ policies underwritten and managed by UnumProvident’s subsidiaries.”

The plaintiffs contend the company denied more than 31,000 new claims from June 30, 1999 to the date of the suit filing and that at least 6,200 plan beneficiaries were “subjected to defendants’ alleged illegal claims practice.”

Collier in the class action order said “plaintiffs have not requested monetary relief. What they have requested is `declaratory relief determining the illegality of the conduct alleged and injunctive relief whereby UnumProvident and its subsidiaries are ordered to immediately cease, in all states of the United States of America, engaging in the offending practices.'”

Collier said that if the claims are proven true “some plaintiffs” may receive monetary relief. Unum shares rose 48 cents to $24.95 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday.

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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.

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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.

Do I have to come to your office to work with your law firm?

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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When you call us during normal business hours you will immediately speak with a disability attorney. We can be reached at 800-682-8331 or by email. Lawyer and staff must return all client calls same day. Client emails are usually replied to within the same business day and seem to be the preferred and most efficient method of communication for most clients.

Reviews

Bruce R. (Arizona)

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. 

Don (Florida)

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.

Sandra B. (Arkansas)

I have nothing but good things to say about how my buyout was handled with my disability claim. The level of professionalism was amazing. All of my questions and concerns were answered either by Danielle L. or Alex P. in such a timely manner and with such care I would recommend them in a heartbeat to anyone needing to approach their provider with buyout options.

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.

Brenda R. (New York)

I needed assistance with an appeal for a LTD claim that was initially denied. Stephen understood what needed to happen to win the appeal and he did win the appeal for me.

Michael C. (Virginia)

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.

Jeff P. (Oklahoma)

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.

Alex was also very straight forward with what to expect and no pie in the sky promises or expectations were made. In the end we won our case and I believe it was solely due to their experience and knowledge of not only the laws but the insurance companies as a whole. I would highly recommend them and am very grateful for the help they afforded to me.

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