Today: December 15, 2004 at 9:51:17 PST
By Jace Radke
LAS VEGAS SUN
A jury has awarded a Las Vegas man more than $11.6 million in his suit against a national insurance provider and its holding company for stalling and eventually denying his disability claims.
The verdict was issued Tuesday by a jury after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge James Mahan.
The jury awarded 61-year-old Clinton Merrick $1.14 million for past unpaid benefits, $500,000 for emotional and mental distress and punitive damages of $2 million against Paul Revere Life Insurance.
The jury also awarded Merrick $8 million in punitive damages from UNUMProvident Corp., Paul Revere’s holding company.
The verdict is another in a long line of recent decisions against UNUMProvident Corp., Merrick’s attorney Julie Mersch said.
“With a number of large verdicts against them (UNUMProvident) I just don’t think they are getting the message,” Mersch said. “The company seems to pretty much have a scorched earth tactic, but thankfully the jury in Mr. Merrick’s case was not buying it and saw through it.”
Merrick took out an insurance claim with Paul Revere in 1989 and was diagnosed in 1995 with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that prevented him from working, Mersch said.
Merrick, a retired venture capitalist, who moved to Las Vegas in January 1997 from Greenwich, Conn., contended that the insurance company denied his disability claim and stalled payment for eight years.
Merrick submitted his disability claim in 1995 and was paid insurance benefits through 1996 when the company suddenly stopped paying the claim for “lack of objective medical evidence” of disability, Merrick’s lawyers said.
“Mr. Merrick spent three years trying to get the company to pay the benefits,” Mersch said. “He went looking for this objective evidence, but there is no objective test one can take for chronic fatigue syndrome. There are only criteria set forth by the Centers for Disease Control.”
The doctors who diagnosed Merrick with chronic fatigue felt that he met those criteria, according to the federal lawsuit he filed in 2000.
Mersch said that Merrick never wanted to be involved in litigation, and only wanted his benefits paid. Merrick continues to live in Las Vegas with his wife, and if his condition improves he would like to go back to work, Mersch said.