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Jury Awards $25.5 Million Verdict Against Insurance Company for Acting “Recklessly”

By Jack H. FarnbauchNovember 20, 2018

An Oklahoma jury has awarded $25.5 million to the family of a cancer patient denied coverage by Aetna, with jurors saying that the insurer acted "recklessly" and that the verdict was meant as a message to Aetna that the company should change its ways.The award is believed to be the largest verdict in an individual "bad faith" insurance case, according to experts.

The 2014 case stems from the denial of coverage for Orrana Cunningham, who had stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer near her brain stem. Orrana’s doctors wanted her to receive proton beam therapy, a targeted form of radiation that could pinpoint her tumor without the potential for blindness or other side effects of standard radiation. Aetna denied coverage for the operation, calling the therapy investigational and experimental. But Orrana and her husband, Ron Cunningham, a retired firefighter, did not give up on their desire for the best and recommended treatment, proton beam therapy.

The Cunninghams were determined to do whatever it took to get Orrana the treatment she needed and even mortgaged their dream home and set up a GoFundMe page to help pay the $92,082.19 therapy her doctors had prescribed at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. However, before they were able to get the proton beam therapy, Orrana died May 30, 2015, at the age of 54, from a viral infection that reached her brain. Ron Cunningham, naturally, brought suit against Aetna and Aetna refused to settle so the case went to trial.

During the trial, Aetna pulled some nasty stunts that backfired. Aetna attorney John Shely said in closing arguments that the insurance giant was proud of the three medical directors who denied coverage, even turning to thank them as they sat in the front row of the courtroom, according to jurors and other witnesses in court. It was a message that didn't sit well with the 12 jurors, who found that Aetna "recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith with the Cunninghams."

You can read more about this case here. This case gives you an insight into how cold and oppressive insurance companies can be and is quite an indictment of Aetna insurance company.