Lambda Demands Insurer Cover Disability Claim of Ex-Court Reporter with AIDS
(LOS ANGELES, April 3, 2000) —A Massachusetts-based insurer that callously refused to pay disability benefits to a long-time policyholder with HIV should stand trial for violating state law that prohibits such unfair insurance practices, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Monday.
On Tuesday, April 4, the California Supreme Court will hear argument to reinstate the case, Galanty v. The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company, which was dismissed by a lower court. Mark Galanty, whose insurance company refused to pay his AIDS-related disability claims, and his counsel, Lambda Cooperating Attorney Mary Newcombe and Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson, will be available for comment following the hearing.
“California law explicitly bars insurers from taking years of premium payments and then leaving a person high and dry when they become disabled,” said Davidson. “People with AIDS should be able to depend on disability insurance to keep them from financial ruin. Here is a man who paid his insurance bill faithfully for five years, yet was told that this meant nothing since he was HIV-positive when he bought his policy.” Paul Revere argues that Galanty’s HIV-positive status was equivalent to an inevitable AIDS diagnosis, despite evidence that people with HIV often live decades before developing AIDS symptoms that make work impossible.
“Insurers should not be scouring medical records after someone becomes disabled in a quest to find some reason for denying benefits,” said Newcombe, of the Los Angeles firm Caldwell, Leslie, Newcombe & Pettit. “This kind of insurance practice is deplorable. If someone becomes disabled from a heart attack, it would be outrageous for an insurer not to honor their disability claim simply because they had high blood pressure when they took out the policy,” she added.
Galanty’s appeal follows the 1998 ruling of the California Court of Appeal that affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of his case on the grounds that HIV could be considered an excluded “manifestation” of a disability. In granting Galanty’s appeal, the California Supreme Court vacated the prior courts’ decision.
Paul Revere sold Galanty, now age 52, a disability income insurance policy in 1989 while he was working as a court reporter. More than five years later, Galanty was diagnosed with AIDS and began to suffer from pain in his hands and other medical conditions that forced him to stop working. California, like most states, prohibits insurers from denying claims for disabilities that start more than two years after a policy is issued. WHAT: Oral argument before the California Supreme Court in the appeal of a policy holder with AIDS whose insurer refused to honor his disability policy WHO: Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson and Lambda Cooperating Attorney Mary Newcombe, counsel to plaintiff Mark Galanty WHERE: California Supreme Court, 300 S. Spring St., 3rd Floor, North Tower, Los Angeles WHEN: Tuesday, April 4, 9:00 a.m. PDT
WHAT: Oral argument before the California Supreme Court in the appeal of a policy holder with AIDS whose insurer refused to honor his disability policy WHO: Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson and Lambda Cooperating Attorney Mary Newcombe, counsel to plaintiff Mark Galanty
WHERE: California Supreme Court, 300 S. Spring St., 3rd Floor, North Tower, Los Angeles
WHEN: Tuesday, April 4, 9:00 a.m. PDT
CONTACT: Jon Davidson 323-937-2728 x 228, or Peg Byron 212-809-8585 or 888-987-1984 (pager)