A well-respected physician had a severe mental breakdown and suddenly walked out of the practice without warning. The breakdown was so severe that the physician remained cloistered in a bedroom for 18 months, refusing to come out. Upon partial recovery, the physician recalled, through the mental haze, notifying the insurance company years earlier of intent to make a long-term disability claim. Getting nowhere with the insurance company, the doctor hired Schwartz, Conroy & Hack.
The insurance company refused to honor its valuable and substantial long-term disability contract with our client, arguing that the physician failed to provide the insurance company with timely notice of claim. A fatal defect in many jurisdictions, including that of this physician, late notice of claim may, in certain cases, completely relieve the insurance company of its obligation to pay benefits under a long-term disability policy.
Our client remained steadfast in insisting that notice of the claim had been given to the insurance company prior to the client walking out of the practice.
Our firm sued the insurance company. During the discovery process, we learned, for the first time, that it was our client’s secretary who had actually given timely notice of claim to the insurance company. Through multiple discussions with our client, we learned that the secretary was an inveterate note-taker and that she would have duly recorded any conversations she had with the insurance company on one of her note pads. The only problem was that all paperwork from the client’s former office was stuffed into boxes by a moving company and deposited into the depths of the earthen basement of our client’s home. The earthen basement amounted to nothing more than an unlit crawl space. Undeterred, one of our attorneys donned work gloves and jeans, grabbed a flashlight, and began sifting through 20 years’ worth of paper records in the dank crawl space. A day of searching and six Duracell batteries later, our attorney discovered the secretary’s notepad. Just as the client had predicted, there was a detailed entry providing the date that notice was given, the number that was called, and the name of the person at the insurance company to whom the secretary gave notice.
During the lawsuit, the insurance company made a motion for summary judgment seeking to throw out our client’s case. In this type of motion, one party attempts to convince the Court that there are no disputes as to the key facts of the case and requests that the Court decide the case without going to trial.
Armed with the secretary’s notebook, among other things, our firm opposed and defeated the insurance company’s effort to have the case dismissed by showing that there were, in fact, issues of fact for a jury to decide as to whether notice was timely given.
With its hopes of quick victory through summary judgment dashed and, given the severe nature of our client’s condition, the insurance company realized it had substantial risks at trial. Rather than going to trial, the insurance company awarded a handsome, lump-sum settlement to our client.
We listened to our client and aggressively uncovered facts necessary to make the insurance company keep the promises it made to our client.