Blawgletter appreciates that judges must use logic to decide cases, including cases that would stir any human’s emotions.  But we expect even objective magistrates to show compassion for those whose arguments they reject.

Consider a recent ruling against a mother and father who lost their son to suicide less than a week before his wedding day. 

The facts:  Two physicians diagnosed Brad Henry with hypogammaglobulinemia immunological deficiency, a condition that made him chronically ill and threatened his ability to work and live a reasonably normal life.  The two doctors plus a third recommended intravenous immunoglobulin replacement therapy for Brad.  But, over a seven-month period, Brad’s health insurer deemed the treatments medically unnecessary.  Four days after the insurer told him that it would take "a couple of weeks" to reevaluate his claim, Brad killed himself.  The carrier later denied coverage again.

The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for the insurer, holding that the carrier established its "good faith" rejection of Brad’s claim as a matter of law.  In doing so, the court:

  • Applied a "not patently off-base" and "not illegitimate or specious" standard for assessing good faith.
  • Called an argument by Brad’s parents a "quibble".
  • Relegated to a footnote its discussion of a key argument — that the insurers’ physicians based their opinions on an "incomplete" file.
  • Criticized Brad and his doctors for not "bother[ing] to explore" a further appeal of the insurer’s refusal to admit coverage.
  • Chose not to identify the author of the court’s opinion.

Henry v. Mut. of Omaha Ins. Co., No. 06-41571 (5th Cir. Oct. 5, 2007).

Barry Barnett

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