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Liberty Mutual Wins On Appeal And Gets UPS Driver's Bad Faith Claim Overturned
By Lonce Lamonte - November 3, 2019

A divided appeals court in Mississippi on October 29th, 2019, Tuesday, ruled that Liberty Mutual will not have to pay $100,000 in damages which was awarded by the lower court in a civil suit filed by a United Parcel Service (UPS) driver. 

The jury in 2017 awarded Anthony Lee Tutor $500,000 in damages to be paid by UPS and $100,000 in damages to be paid by Liberty Mutual.  But only Liberty Mutual appealed. 

Anthony Lee Tutor made a workers’ compensation claim in 2011.  He claimed he injured his back on the job but UPS denied he had a work comp claim.  UPS instead allowed Tutor to file for short-term disability for an injury that was not work related, UPS alleged, in spite of Tutor’s protests.

Just prior to the expiration of his disability, Tutor hired an attorney to file a workers’ compensation claim.  Liberty Mutual was unaware of his asserted injury at work in 2011, therefore, denied the claim, initially to the claimant’s attorney, and requested more information. 

Further investigation, which included examination by a doctor hired by Liberty Mutual, resulted in the doctor testifying that the claimant’s injury was AOE-COE.  Thus, Liberty accepted the claim and then settled the claim for $160,000.  

In 2013, Tutor filed a lawsuit in Clay County Circuit Court against Liberty and UPS asserting he was entitled to extra damages, including punitive damages for alleged “bad faith handling” of his workers’ compensation claim.  Thus, the jury verdict came in 2017. 

Since UPS did not appeal, the $500,000 ruling in damages to the claimant was final.   But the appeals court on the Liberty Mutual appeal reversed the jury ruling 6-3, finding that Tutor failed to provide sufficient evidence that Liberty mishandled the claim.  The paper trail showed the appeals court a failure of sufficient documentation with only a list of 18 separate doctors who examined the claimant, among other shortcomings.

A concurring judge wrote that it was interesting to note that Liberty paid Tutor’s medical bills plus paid him $160,000 for his disability. 

Three judges dissented, writing in part that Liberty Mutual had ignored its own policies and procedures upon receiving Tutor’s claim and that the claims handler admitted to denying the claimant’s claim within 48 hours of receiving it.  That adjuster’s reason given for that quick denial was she had to investigate.  Her testimony revealed she did not investigate the case before choosing to deny the claim in the absolute.  She had no evidence of a pre-existing injury, no evidence disputing the claimant’s claim of a documented work-related injury, and no conflicting documentation.   


lonce@adjustercom.com, Lonce Lamonte, journalist and editor of adjustercom; copyright by adjustercom and Lonce Lamonte, all rights reserved. 

 

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