Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in White Collar Crime
Nationwide Ins. Co. of Am. v. Tipton
After defendants Frayba and William Tipton pled guilty to committing insurance fraud, they were ordered to pay victim restitution to Nationwide Insurance Company of America (Nationwide). Later, Nationwide petitioned the trial court to convert the criminal restitution orders to civil judgments against both defendants. Defendants opposed. Relying on Penal Code1 section 1214, the trial court granted Nationwide’s petition and entered civil judgments against the defendants. On appeal, defendants argued the trial court erred because (1) Nationwide “failed to provide citation to any . . . authority supporting” conversion of the victim restitution orders to civil judgment; and (2) Nationwide’s petition lacked supporting evidence. The Court of Appeal found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Nationwide Ins. Co. of Am. v. Tipton" on Justia Law
Liberty Insurance Corp. v. Techdan, LLC
The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's consideration was whether claims brought under the Insurance Fraud Protection Act (IFPA) and the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) by plaintiffs Liberty Insurance Corp. and LM Insurance Corp. (Liberty) against defendants Techdan, LLC (Techdan), Exterior Erecting Services, Inc. (Exterior), Daniel Fisher, Robert Dunlap, and Carol Junz were subject to the apportionment procedure of the Comparative Negligence Act (CNA). Liberty issued workers’ compensation policies to Techdan from 2004 to 2007. It alleged defendants misrepresented the relationship between Techdan and Exterior and the ownership structure of the two entities and provided fraudulent payroll records to reduce the premiums for workers’ compensation insurance. Techdan was indicted for second-degree theft by deception, and Dunlap entered a guilty plea to that charge on Techdan’s behalf. The court granted partial summary judgment as to Liberty’s IFPA claim for insurance fraud against Techdan, Exterior, Dunlap, and Fisher; partial summary judgment as to Liberty’s workers’ compensation fraud claim against all defendants; and partial summary judgment as to Liberty’s breach of contract claim against Techdan and Exterior. The court denied summary judgment as to Liberty’s remaining claims. The jury found Techdan liable for $454,660 in compensatory damages and found Exterior liable for $227,330 in compensatory damages, but awarded no compensatory damages against Dunlap, Fisher, or Junz. It awarded punitive damages in the amount of $200,000 against Dunlap, $10,000 against Fisher, and $45,000 against Junz, but awarded no punitive damages against Techdan or Exterior. The trial court determined all defendants should be jointly and severally liable for the $756,990 awarded as compensatory damages. The Appellate Division held the trial court erred when it imposed joint and several liability on defendants rather than directing the jury to allocate percentages of fault to defendants in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.2(a)(2). The Division concluded the trial court’s cumulative errors warranted a new trial, and it remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court: the trial court should have charged the jury to allocate percentages of fault and should have molded the judgment based on the jury’s findings; the trial court’s failure to apply the CNA warranted a new trial on remand. The Court did not disturb the first jury’s findings on the issues of liability under the IFPA, the WCA, or Liberty’s common-law claims, or its determination of total compensatory damages. The Court found no plain error in the trial court’s failure to give the jury an ultimate outcome charge. View "Liberty Insurance Corp. v. Techdan, LLC" on Justia Law
State of Cal. v. Encino Hospital Medical Center
This case arose out of a qui tam action against Prime Healthcare Services—Encino Hospital, LLC (Encino Hospital) and others to impose civil penalties for violation of the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (IFPA), Insurance Code section 1871 et seq. The State of California and relator (Plaintiffs) appealed from a judgment entered after a bench trial in which the court found insufficient evidence to support their allegations that Defendants engaged in insurance fraud by billing insurers for services performed in a detox center for which they had no appropriate license, and by employing a referral agency to steer patients to the center. The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment. The court explained that, CDI alleged that Encino Hospital misrepresented to insurers that it was properly licensed to provide detox services when it was not. The trial court found no evidence suggesting that Defendants presented a false claim to any insurer. The court agreed, reasoning that no authority of which it is aware or to which it has been directed obligates Encino Hospital to hold any license other than its license as a general acute care hospital. Because Encino Hospital needed no separate license or approval, and no evidence showed it concealed any provider, the CDI’s cause of action for false claims failed for lack of a predicate. View "State of Cal. v. Encino Hospital Medical Center" on Justia Law
Williams v. Nat. W. Life Ins. Co.
National Western Life Insurance Company (NWL) appealed after it was held liable for negligence and elder abuse arising from an NWL annuity sold to Barney Williams by Victor Pantaleoni. In 2016, Williams contacted Pantaleoni to revise a living trust after the death of Williams’ wife, but Pantaleoni sold him a $100,000 NWL annuity. When Williams returned the annuity to NWL during a 30-day “free look” period, Pantaleoni wrote a letter over Williams’ signature for NWL to reissue a new annuity. In 2017, when Williams cancelled the second annuity, NWL charged a $14,949.91 surrender penalty. The jury awarded Williams damages against NWL, including punitive damages totaling almost $3 million. In the Court of Appeal's prior opinion reversing the judgment, the Court concluded Pantaleoni was an independent agent who sold annuities for multiple insurance companies and had no authority to bind NWL. The Court determined that Pantaleoni was an agent for Williams, not NWL. The California Supreme Court vacated that decision and remanded, asking the appeals court to reconsider its finding that Pantaleoni did not have an agency relationship with National Western Life Insurance Company in light of Insurance Code sections 32, 101, 1662, 1704 and 1704.5 and O’Riordan v. Federal Kemper Life Assurance Company, 36 Cal.4th 281, 288 (2005). Upon remand, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment finding NWL liable for negligence and financial elder abuse. However, punitive damages assessed against NWL were reversed. The Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s calculation of the attorney fee award, but remanded the case for the court to reconsider the award in light of the reversal of punitive damages. View "Williams v. Nat. W. Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Banerjee v. Super. Ct.
Following a preliminary hearing, petitioner Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee was charged in an information with two counts of presenting a false or fraudulent health care claim to an insurer (a form of insurance fraud, counts 1-2), and three counts of perjury (counts 3-5). The superior court denied Banerjee’s motion to dismiss the information as unsupported by reasonable or probable cause. Banerjee petitioned for a writ of prohibition to direct the superior court to vacate its order denying his Penal Code section 995 motion and to issue an order setting aside the information. The Court of Appeal issued an order to show cause and an order staying further proceedings on the information, pending the Court's resolution of the merits of Banerjee’s petition. The State filed a return, and Banerjee filed a traverse. The State argued the evidence supported a strong suspicion that Banerjee committed two counts of insurance fraud and three counts of perjury, based on his violations of Labor Code section 139.3(a) between 2014 and 2016. During that period, Banerjee billed a workers’ compensation insurer for services he rendered to patients through his professional corporation and through two other legal entities he owned and controlled. The insurance fraud charges are based on Banerjee’s 2014-2016 billings to the insurer through the two other entities. The perjury charges were based on three instances in which Banerjee signed doctor’s reports, certifying under penalty of perjury that he had not violated “section 139.3.” Banerjee argued: (1) the evidence showed he did not violate the statute's referral prohibition; (2) even if he did not comply with section 139.3(e), the “physician’s office” exception to the referral prohibition applied to all of his referrals to his two other legal entities; and (3) the patient disclosure requirement of section 139.3(e), the referral prohibition of section 139.3(a), and the physician’s office exception to the referral prohibition were unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) Banerjee did not violate section 139.3(a) by referring his patients to his two other legal entities; and (2) the evidence supported a strong suspicion that Banerjee specifically intended to present false and fraudulent claims for health care benefits, in violation of Penal Code section 550(a)(6), by billing the workers’ compensation insurer substantially higher amounts through his two other legal entities than he previously and customarily billed the insurer for the same services he formerly rendered through his professional corporation and his former group practice. Thus, the Court granted the writ as to the perjury charges but denied it as to the insurance fraud charges. View "Banerjee v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
People ex rel. Allstate Insurance Co. v. Suh
Allstate filed suit under Insurance Code section 1871.7 on behalf of the People against defendant, her mother, and others for insurance fraud in violation of Penal Code section 550, which makes it unlawful to submit false or fraudulent claims to an insurance company. The jury found in favor of Allstate.The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's ex parte application for a stay. The court also held that unlawful conduct under section 550 does not require a misstatement of fact in the insurance claim. In this case, defendant and her mother committed insurance fraud in violation of section 550 where they perpetrated a deceitful insurance scheme designed to acquire insurance proceeds illegally for personal gain. View "People ex rel. Allstate Insurance Co. v. Suh" on Justia Law
Rainforest Chocolate, LLC v. Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd.
Appellant Rainforest Chocolate, LLC appealed the grant of summary judgment motion in favor of appellee Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd. Rainforest was insured under a business-owner policy offered by Sentinel. In May 2016, Rainforest’s employee received an email purporting to be from his manager. The email directed the employee to transfer $19,875 to a specified outside bank account through an electronic-funds transfer. Unbeknownst to the employee, an unknown individual had gained control of the manager’s email account and sent the email. The employee electronically transferred the money. Shortly thereafter when Rainforest learned that the manager had not sent the email, it contacted its bank, which froze its account and limited the loss to $10,261.36. Rainforest reported the loss to Sentinel. In a series of letters exchanged concerning coverage for the loss, Rainforest claimed the loss should be covered under provisions of the policy covering losses due to Forgery, for Forged or Altered Instruments, and for losses resulting from Computer Fraud. Sentinel denied coverage. In a continuing attempt to obtain coverage for the loss, Rainforest also claimed coverage under a provision of the policy for the loss of Money or Securities by theft. Sentinel again denied coverage, primarily relying on an exclusion for physical loss or physical damage caused by or resulting from False Pretense that concerned “voluntary parting” of the property—the False Pretense Exclusion. Finding certain terms in the policy at issue were ambiguous, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed summary judgment and remanded for the trial court to consider in the first instance whether other provisions in the policy could provide coverage for Rainforest's loss. View "Rainforest Chocolate, LLC v. Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Insurance Law, Vermont Supreme Court, White Collar Crime
United States v. Walters
In 2010, the defendants formed PremierTox, a urinalysis testing company: Doctors Peavler and Wood owned a substance abuse treatment company, SelfRefind; Doctor Bertram previously worked for SelfRefind. Bottom and Walters owned a drug testing service and laboratory. Physicians at clinics ordered urinalysis tests to check if their patients used illicit drugs and to monitor their medications. PremierTox was to receive those urine samples, perform the testing, and report back. In October 2010, SelfRefind began to send frozen urine samples to PremierTox for testing, but PremierTox did not have the correct equipment. In 2011, after PremierTox bought the necessary, expensive machines, they broke down. Urine samples from SelfRefind piled up. PremierTox started testing them between February and April 2011 and finished testing them in October. Over the same period, it tested and billed for fresh samples as they came in, aiming for a 48-hour turnaround. PremierTox billed insurers, saying nothing about the delays. The defendants were charged with 99 counts of health care fraud and with conspiracy. A jury acquitted them of conspiracy and 82 of the health care fraud charges and convicted them of 17 health care fraud charges. The trial judge imposed sentences of 13-21 months in prison. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions. A reasonable jury could find that the defendants violated 18 U.S.C. 1347 by requesting reimbursement for tests that were not medically necessary. View "United States v. Walters" on Justia Law
California v. Riddles
Defendant-appellant John Riddles pled guilty to one count of workers' compensation insurance fraud. His conviction grew out of his application for workers' compensation insurance, which fraudulently represented that a number of nurses who had been placed in residential care and skilled-nursing facilities by Riddles' staffing agency were computer programmers. His misrepresentation of the nurses as computer programmers substantially reduced the premium his agency was charged by the workers' compensation insurer that accepted his company's application; accordingly, the trial court required that Riddles pay, as restitution to the insurer, $37,000 in premiums the insurer would have earned in the absence of his misrepresentation. Contrary to his argument on appeal, a workers' compensation insurer could recover, as restitution under Penal Code section 1202.4, the premiums it would have earned in the absence of misrepresentations by an insurance applicant. The fact Riddles may have been able to establish that the Labor Code did not require that he provide workers' compensation coverage for the nurses did not relieve him of responsibility for providing the insurer with a fraudulent application or alter the fact the nurses were covered by the policy he obtained. View "California v. Riddles" on Justia Law
Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Wash. Trust Bank
An employee of a nonprofit serving disabled adult clients used her position to embezzle more than half a million dollars held by the nonprofit for its clients. After the embezzlement was discovered, Travelers Casualty & Surety Company, the nonprofit's insurance company, made the nonprofit whole. Travelers then sought contribution from the bank in federal court. By submitting certified questions of Washington law, that court has asked the Washington Supreme Court to decide, among other things, whether a nonpayee's signature on the back of a check was an indorsement. Furthermore, the Court was also asked whether claims based on unauthorized indorsements that are not discovered and reported to a bank within one year of being made available to the customer are time barred. The Supreme Court answered yes to both questions. View "Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Wash. Trust Bank" on Justia Law