Plaintiff wins $60 million dollars in punitive damages in disability insurance bad faith case


Paul Revere Life Insurance Company and UnumProvident Corporation were hit with a combined $60 million dollar verdict in a retrial of a disability insurance bad faith case originally tried in 2004. The June verdict in Las Vegas was six times the punitive damage award originally awarded to Plaintiff G. Clinton Merrick.

Summarized by Friedman, Rubin & White, attorneys for Merrick:

As vice president at General Foods in the 1970s, Merrick was instrumental in the development of the Kool-Aid Man and Country-Time Lemonade advertising campaigns and had thereafter become a successful venture capitalist. Merrick was a founder and managing director of Consumer Venture Partners of Greenwich, CT, and also a founding investor and director of Samuel Adams Brewing Co. He purchased a Paul Revere disability insurance policy in 1989. In 1991, Merrick began to suffer the affects of Lyme disease with chronic fatigue syndrome, though it went undiagnosed for a period of time. His work performance suffered and he tried to continue working. By 1994 he could not meet the grueling business travel and analytic requirements of a venture capitalist and he moved to Summerlin, NV, for his health. He put his insurer, Paul Revere on notice of claim in 1994 and filed his claim in 1995. Paul Revere accepted liability in 1995 and continued to pay benefits until December 1996. At that time, Paul Revere was in the process of being acquired by Provident Companies, Inc. which in 1999 became, UnumProvident Corp., which subsequently changed its name to Unum Group in 2007.

Merrick's lawyers 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."