Category Archives: Success Stories

Ed Comitz selected as an Arizona Business Leader in 2017

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Ed Comitz, the head of Comitz | Beethe’s Disability Insurance and Healthcare Law practice, has been named as an Arizona Business Leader in 2017 by Arizona Business Magazine.  The 500 business leaders were selected from a pool over of 5,000 names considered.  Editor in Chief, Michael Gossie, writes of the 500 leaders selected, “They are catalysts for Arizona’s economy.  They are leaders.  They are innovators. They have influence.  And when they speak, they make things happen.”

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Provident Loses the Battle Over Discovery of Employee Compensation and Bonus Information Tied to the Denial of Insurance Benefits.

In previous posts entitled “Why Is It So Hard To Collect On My Disability Insurance Policy?” and “Does Your Unum Claims Handler Have a Personal Financial Incentive to Deny or Terminate Your Disability Claim?”, we reviewed a leading reason behind insurance companies denying disability insurance claims: claims managers often receive incentives, including bonuses, depending on the amount of money they save the company.  For the claims department, saving the company money is frequently achieved by denying the claims of existing customers who are receiving disability insurance benefits.  This conflict of interest is a probable basis for denial or termination of many legitimate disability claims.

A recent discovery decision by the United States District Court, N.D. California in Welle v. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co., 2013 WL 5663221 (N.D. Cal., Oct. 17, 2013) comes as a major win for those with legitimate disability claims.  There, Doctor Dana Welle injured her left arm in a bike accident.   After multiple surgeries, she was diagnosed with ulnar neuropathy and left medial epicondylitis.  This condition gave her pain and weakness in her left arm that impacted her ability to safely care for her patients.  After Provident Life Insurance (a Unum company) had paid almost three years of disability insurance benefits to Ms. Welle, the company denied her benefits.[1]

In her suit against Provident, which claimed bad faith denial of her benefits, Dr. Welle alleged that Provident’s “incentive structure was based on performance, and performance may be measured, in terms of resolution of claims, including her own.”[2]  Dr. Welle requested Provident to produce “any and all documents that reflect, refer or relate to bonus awards, including but not limited to the performance rating and percent of bonus awarded” to claims managers and claim handlers.[3]

Provident objected to the request because, as they argued, it was overly broad and sought to obtain information that was private, proprietary and confidential.  The Court overruled Provident’s objections and allowed the discovery.  The Court reasoned that the information she sought in her requests “speaks to whether her claim was improperly denied and whether Provident encourages bad faith practices.”[4]

The Court further reasoned that Dr. Welle had shown compelling need for the documents that related to the bonuses of those involved in adjusting her disability insurance claim, and that the information was “highly relevant to her bad faith claim.”[5]  The Court disagreed with Provident’s concern with the request being overly broad because it only requested bonus and performance related information of specific individuals.   The Court also disagreed with Provident’s defense that discovering the information would breach the employees’ privacy rights, or that the information was proprietary and confidential, because Dr. Welle had already stipulated to a confidentiality agreement and protective order that covered the entire proceeding.[6]

Thus, the Court allowed discovery of the employees’ bonus and performance related compensation documents.  Though this is not the end of Dr. Welle’s fight to receive her legitimate disability insurance benefits, it is a major step in helping her get the ammunition she needs to assure her of future benefits under the policy.


[1] Welle v. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co., 2013 WL 5663221 (N.D. Cal., Oct. 17, 2013).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

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Comitz Beethe Named #1 Healthcare Law Firm

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Comitz | Beethe’s has been named Arizona’s #1 Healthcare Law Firm by Ranking Arizona: The Best of Arizona Business.

Ranking Arizona publishes the results of an annual poll of the Arizona business community. Residents are asked to share their opinions of the best products, services and people in the state, including who they would recommend doing business with.  Comitz | Beethe was selected as the state’s top healthcare law firm for its work representing physicians and dentists, including its handling of disability insurance claims for healthcare professionals.

The firm was also named as one of the top 5 Arizona law firms with 20 or fewer attorneys, the top 5 commercial litigation firms, and the top 10 real estate law firms.

To participate in this year’s selection, visit Ranking Arizona 2015.

(Image source: AZ Big Media)

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“Lives Worth Living” on PBS tonight – A Look at the History of the Disability Rights Movement

Tonight on PBS’s documentary series “Independent Lens,” the spotlight will be on the history of the Disability Rights Movement that led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The film takes a look at the often horrifying and discriminatory practices that persons with disabilities were subjected to and the brave individuals who fought for change.

In addition to the trailer preview above, PBS describes the documentary as follows:

Lives Worth Living follows one man’s struggle to survive after a spinal cord injury and his role in the earliest days of the Disability Rights Movement.

Fred Fay’s life proves that one man can change the world, even though he has to lie flat on his back just to stay alive. Lives Worth Living looks at Fay’s struggle to survive after a spinal cord injury and the small group of dedicated activists who formed the Disability Rights Movement to drive the nation towards equal rights.

The late Fred Fay survived a devastating spinal cord injury when he was only 16, and turned his misfortune into a movement for equality. With a small group of dedicated activists, he spearheaded the disability rights movement and changed the face of American society.

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Do You Miss the Olympics? The 2012 Paralympic Games Are Being Held in London August 29-September 9

The Paralympic Games have returned to London, more than a million tickets have been sold, and some events have been sold out for months.  A live feed of the games can be accessed on five channels via the official website of the Paralympic Movement.

Each sport has its own criteria for qualification, but all athletes in the games are disabled, bringing exciting twists to the sports we’re used to seeing in the Olympics.  Among the sports in the Summer Games are Sitting Volleyball (pictured above), Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Tennis, Para-Triathlon and Wheelchair Fencing.

Sitting Volleyball, for example, requires a smaller court and a lower net and is thus considerably faster than standing volleyball.  At all times, an athlete’s pelvis must be touching the ground and service blocks are allowed.  In London 2012, 198 athletes with disabilities will be competing in Sitting Volleyball.

In the Swimming competition, the second largest sport at the Paralympic Games, visually impaired swimmers wear blackened goggles to ensure fair competition and have a “tapper” who uses a pole to tap the swimmer as he or she approaches the wall.  Aided starts are allowed in Paralympic competition, such as from standing beside the podium, from a sitting position in the water, or having assistance with balance on the podium, provided that an unfair advantage is not reached from this assistance.

Further information on the schedule and the sports is available at the official website.

 

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Disabled Doctor wins fight against Unum Life

On June 11, 2010, Salient News reported on a disabled doctor who prevailed against Unum in court to receive disability insurance benefits to which he was entitled. The attorney for the doctor discussed the tactics used by the insurance company.

Unum has shown a long-standing pattern of denying occupation specific policies focusing on denying high earning professionals such as doctors, lawyers, chiropractors and the like. Unum uses its own appeal process to unjustly prejudice and deny valid and deserving claims.

The full article is available here: Disabled Doctor wins fight against Unum Life

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