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Unum Accused of Violating Injunction

June 26, 2003|Lisa Girion | Times Staff Writer

Two Bay Area residents asked a federal judge Wednesday to hold UnumProvident Corp. and its subsidiaries in contempt, alleging that the company cheated them and others out of disability insurance benefits.

Laurie Hindiyeh and Eugene Molfino told the court in a petition that even though their own doctors have said they are disabled, the nation's largest disability insurer declared them fit to work, cut off their benefits and denied their appeals.

They allege that the terminations violate an unusual and harshly worded injunction issued last year against the company by U.S. Magistrate James Larson. Larson reprimanded Unum and ordered it to stop employing biased medical examiners, destroying medical reports and withholding information about benefits from claimants.

Because Hindiyeh and Molfino obtained their disability insurance through their employers, their ability to sue Unum for alleged bad faith is restricted by a federal law known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Unum routinely cuts off benefits to victims of heart disease, Meniere's disease, Crohn's disease, AIDS and other conditions who bought insurance through their employers, according to several insurance lawyers from across California who filed affidavits with the contempt request. The petition asks Larson to reopen all ERISA-covered claims rejected by Unum in California since he issued the injunction Nov. 12.

"The physicians are unanimous that [Hindiyeh and Molfino] are permanently disabled and can never return to work," said Ray Bourhis, their lawyer.

A spokesman for Unum did not return calls for comment.

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