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Judges rule on pre-existing condition case

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Highlighting the highly controversial health care debate that’s played out during the past year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled on a pretty straightforward case about a pre-existing condition clause that denied a man’s claim for long-term disability benefits.

Judge Terry Evans wrote for the unanimous panel, affirming a decision from Judge Larry McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana that had rejected the man’s Employment Retirement Income Security Act suit and granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. The case is The Estate of Norman Blanco, by its personal representative Steven C. Blanco v. Prudential Insurance Company Of America, Pruvalue Insurance Benefits Trust, and Porsche Engineering Services Inc., No. 08-2074.

“The phrase ‘preexisting condition’ was frequently in the news as efforts to enact national health care reform were debated over the last year,” Judge Evans began in the ruling. “And although our case today involves a preexisting condition exclusion, there is a twist.”

Now deceased, Norman Blanco had started at the age of 45 as an engineer at Porsche Engineering Services in Michigan in April 2005. His company’s welfare benefit plan covered by ERISA kicked in a month later and was underwritten and administered by Prudential Insurance, providing long- and short-term disability benefits to those who couldn’t work. Blanco suffered a heart attack in July and was unable to work for several days while hospitalized, and he later submitted a disability benefit claim. The short-term benefits were approved, but the long-term benefits weren’t because Prudential determined he had a preexisting condition based on a history of worsening heart disease and prior heart attacks and treatment that he didn’t always adhere to.

At the District Court level, Judge McKinney granted a summary judgment motion by Prudential Insurance, which had upheld the claim denial during an internal review process. The trial judge had limited some of the evidence in that case, and the appellate panel affirmed his decision. Blanco died following that decision, and his estate carried on the appeal.

Analyzing Judge McKinney’s ruling, the 7th Circuit decided that Blanco did fall under the pre-existing exclusion sections of ERISA and couldn’t receive those long-term benefits.

“The purpose of the policy is to exclude from coverage a person who is aware of something – be it a sign or symptom – for which a reasonably prudent person should seek treatment,” Judge Evans wrote.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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