Judith Fogel's Case Against UNUM

Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 16:04:37 -0400
From: judy morris 
Subject: Judith Fogel's Case Against UNUM - Part 1

Some of you lawyers and reporters are asking for PROOF and court
documents.  I will eventually have a Website and scan all this stuff on
to the Internet.  Meanwhile, as I review these documents, I am trying to
share the pertinent points with other claimants and their lawyers.

I just finished reviewing an inch thick book containing the testimony of
a UNUM Claims Adjuster.  It is VERY VERY difficult emotionally to read
this stuff and to see just how duplicitous and underhanded these people
are, even UNDER OATH.  I believe I was told that Judith Fogel won her
case (whatever that means) but at this point all I have is this court
testimony and another short testimony from someone else from UNUM in
this case.

I haven't  attempted to contact Ms. Fogel, although I would like to in
the future.

You can add these comments to the "Indictment of UNUM" that I sent you
as just another example of their tactics and behavior, except this one
actually got to court.

This summary is a little broken up because all I have to go by is this
testimony. The lawyers jump from one subject to another all over the
place.  I don't know if they do this on purpose to confuse the judge and
jury or if they are just disorganized.  I am not able to look at the
letters to which they are refering or to ask any questions to clarify
things.  My comments will be in brackets [ ].

Judith S. Fogel v. National Life of Vermont Insurance Company and UNUM
Life Insurance Company, Case No. Bc 1418871, Superior court of the State
of California, County of LA, Judge Paul Boland. August 8-11, 1997.

Fogel's lawyers - from the firm of Cooper, Kardaras & Scharf - Overing,
Wilde, Branconier

UNUM's lawyers - from the firm of Bannan, Green, Smith, Frank & Rimac -
Audet and Green

>From UNUM - Tamarra T. Rennick [Note that Ms. Rennick is the attorney
that testified that it would cost TOO MUCH MONEY and take their lawyers
away from their OTHER duties if UNUM was forced to comply with the
request of Steve Russell (S.R.) to produce an analysis of the 1044
lawsuits filed against UNUM for denial of disability benefits from Jan.
1994 to Nov. 1996 - see S.R.'s story in the "Indictment."]

Background - This case is a little confusing because Fogel has several
policies with National Life of Vermont, including a disability policy
and a B.O.E. - Business Overhead Policy.  Also despite the fact that
UNUM was handling the claims, all of the correspondence going to the
claimant was on National Life of Vermont (NLV) letterhead and Fogel was
never told the NLV was not handling its own claims.  Ms. Fogel is a solo
practicing lawyer, (practicing for 18 years) from Southern California. 
Her disability stems from pain from multiple herniated discs in her neck
and back.  

This is the testimony of Fogel's primary claims adjuster Carolyn
Corliss, who works for UNUM but was writing to Fogel on NLV letterhead.

FIRST note that when Corliss was asked to define the "covenant of good
faith" this was her answer.  Covenant of good faith and fair dealing
means that [the adjuster] "needs to act in extreme good faith with my
insureds, evaluate the claims promptly, expediently, with
professionalism, true timeliness, giving her the benefit of the doubt,
while continuing to fully investigate the claim." 

To make a long story short, Fogel filed her claims in May, 1995. 
NLV/UNUM paid her until October or November 1995.  Meanwhile their
"investigation" included finding out that the claimant has been sued a
few times but all the cases were "quite old," that her legal license was
on probation but had been for several years and she was continuing to
practice, and that she'd gotten divorced.  They also demanded of her tax
returns (even though it's illegal in California to make tax returns a
condition for insurance payments), repeated documentation of her court
cases, court appearances, payment to her paralegals and other
information. Even when the information was provided, it was never right.
Corliss always found some reason to question it and want it done over or
wanted more information or certified statements.  An Equifax Superbureau
Report (a credit report) was ordered on the claimant and reviewed by
Corliss BEFORE she even spoke to the claimant.  Fogel's son even wrote
letter of complaint to Corliss.  Finally her benefits were terminated
with a letter that Corliss claimed she didn't write but was signed by
her telling Fogel that her benefits were to be terminated by a certain
date if she didn't produce the tax documents requested.  Fogel was also
apparently send for an IME and told her benefits would be terminated if
she didn't go. [I don't know what transpired at the IME, but Fogel
subsequently called Corliss, and according to Corliss repeatedly
referred to the IME doctor as a "whore."] - [Geez this went on longer
than I thought]

Anyway, let's see if I can give you some good quotes directly from the
testimony to help you understand the type of smear campaign we are all
being subjected to just by virtue of the fact that we filed disability


[First thing that happens in a claim - this might be someone you want to

 "We have claims assistance that actually isn't on the claim forms to
the insureds and then set up the actual claim file....the claims
assistant will refer it to the appropriate specialist." 

[This is probably where we would find out what criteria are used to
decide who gets harassed and ultimately denied.  It would also be
interesting to know why certain claims "specialists" are needed and for
which cases. My gut feeling is that the decision to ultimately deny or
terminate a claim is made HERE at the very beginning.]

[Then there's the adjuster's over the phone "medical exam."] 
Corliss(relating her first phone call with Fogel): "We discussed her
claim in detail for a great period of time and during the time that she
spoke with me, she never advised that she was in any pain or having any
discomfort whatsoever." "During the time of the conversation with me,
she never relayed in any manner that she was having difficulty in
continuing the phone call."  "I felt that after this call that she and I
had established a good rapport.  I felt I had a lady where who is
disabled, she needs money." "I was really concerned for her and I wanted
to expedite making a determination on her claim."

NLV/UNUM refused to waive the insurance premiums while they were
"investigating" the claim.  Corliss: "I felt it was very essential that
she pay her premiums..."
Adjuster Corliss claimed she needed a "listing of cases that which she
had worked on for the past year in order to establish her pre-disability
occupational endeavors." including "case names, names of the courts, the
docket names, dates of court appearances, nature of appearance."  [Is
this a fishing expedition or what?]
When asked for the name and address of her legal malpractice insurance,
Ms. Fogel said she no longer carried legal malpractice insurance for the
last 8 years.  At this point the judge asked what is the relevance of
whether or not she carries malpractice insurance and UNUM's lawyer
Rennick proceeds to claim that "it goes to Miss Corliss's overall
impression of Miss Fogel.  It goes to issues of credibility.  There's a
pattern, as I am sure your honor has seem of Miss Fogel and how she
perceives obligations."

Ms. Fogel has said that she felt sometimes she got sued by clients who
wanted to get out of paying their debts and that having insurance would
encourage that.

UNUM's lawyer Audet goes on to further state that the issue of
malpractice insurance "reflected about how Miss Fogel felt about her
obligations to pay debts and her duties to her clients and that effected
her credibility."

[This is all of course extremely laughable and sickening coming from an
INSURANCE company that refuses to honor ITS obligations to its
customers.  Somehow UNUM feels that we should pay premiums, that we OWE
them, and that if we don't buy insurance, we are deadbeats.]

UNUM's Rennick commented that one of Fogel's witnesses has called
Corliss and "institutional batterer" and "someone without a moral
[Well, I'll finish sharing Corliss's testimony and let you be the


Shortly after calling Ms. Fogel, Corliss called the Law Firm of Adams,
Duque, & Hazelton [You should remember them.  This is the law firm where
John Dishman (J.D.) was an executive before he was disabled with
intractable migraine headaches.  Adams, Duque & Hazelton do defense work
for UNUM.  John Dishman is one of the FEW people who sued UNUM to ever
actually make it to court.  See Judge Letts comments in the "Indictment"
about how UNUM treated John Dishman.]  Anyway, since Fogel was a lawyer,
Corlisses excuse for consulting a law firm was to find out what lawyers
do.  [I wonder how soon after ny adjusters spoke with me they conferred
with the legal department and what excuse they will have for it.]  So
anyway, Corliss asked this law firm to check an make sure Fogel's
professional licenses were in order and stuff like that.

The next thing that happened is a Dr. Nancy Ball, one of UNUM's medical
directors, told Corliss to pay the claim, the "total disability sounded
reasonable, that it was a legitimate claim.  So they did start paying
Fogel's benefits under her Disability Insurance policy at that time.

[I wonder what would have happened if it had been Dr. Pringle instead of
Dr. Ball who reviewed this record.]

So over the summer, Corliss continues to "investigate" Fogel's claim and
finds out that her legal license has been on probation, but not
suspension for several years, that Fogel has been sued in the past but
that all the suits were "quite old" and that her most recent legal
problems had been her divorce a few years before that.  This information
was all provided by the law firm which asked if Corliss wanted more.

The just asks repeatedly "What is the probative value of this

UNUM's lawyers just keep saying if it's in the claims file, it
influenced the "state of mind" of the claims adjuster and so somehow
justified her further investigation.

Judge Boland even says to UNUM's lawyer "Are there not situations where
there may be information in a claims file that is highly prejudicial in
a file and is not particularly probative of an issue in this case?"

UNUM's lawyer Green:  "Frankly, I can't think of an example."

[Of course any rational person knows that the claimant's legal problems,
while they may not be as trivial as she had said, were not the CAUSE of
her pain, however, having to deal with them certainly would involve
time, physical activity, and stress that would aggravate her underlying
The next few pages go on to arguing with Fogel's attorney making the
point that the insurance company is trying to introduce "anything the
insurance company decides to put in the file, relevant or otherwise, not
related to the claim, would be allowed to come in simply because it's in
the claim file."  The judge seems to agree that it's not right to allow
a lot of information that is highly prejudicial but doesn't PROVE
anything, but still UNUM's lawyers manage to get some of this
information in before the jury.

The insurance lawyers make repeated referenced to the "State of Mind" of
the insurance company.  [I'd like to know why the financial motivations,
career advancement, and bonuses that claims adjusters get wasn't
introduced as part of their "state of mind" when they are determining
whether to award benefits of a substantial nature.]

Fogel's lawyer "there is something inherently unfair about an insurance
company, to put whatever it wants in its file and then to say it's
protected or should be admissable simply because it's in the file. 
[Think about all those "statements" they attributed to our doctors, an
the times we spoke with them on the phone and they wrote down something
different in their files.]

So UNUM's attorney Green points out that if the information in the file
is NOT TRUE, it would be evidence against the company for including such

Then they go on to say all this information merely goes against the
claimant's credibility. [I say, instead of digging up dirt, why don't
they just make us take a lie detector test and be done with it.  Why? 
Because then they'd have to pay our claims. They couldn't merely imply
that we are liars and get away with it.]

Here's something interesting.  Apparently UNUM found an article
mentioning Ms. Fogel in a publication "California Lawyer" to use as
evidence against her.  If they can use "California Lawyer" then we can
use the article on John Dishman's case in the Central District Almanac
as evidence against UNUM.
Just FYI, when other UNUM employees are mentioned I will mention them
here in case someone else has had an experience with any of these
people.  Clark Bridges was the field representative that met with Ms.
I'm going to continue this post because I think it's getting too long
for one E-mail.

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Subject: Judith Fogel's case - Part 2

Now the testimony revolves around why UNUM/NLV ordered a credit report
on the claimant.  

Judge Boland [clearly wondering] "Why is her credit worthiness a factor
that was considered?" 
UNUM's Rennick says they found some judgements and liens against her.
Judge Boland "What bearing does that have on the claims handling?"

So Fogel's attorney points out that all this information is
"prejudicial, outweighs the probative value and it's still heresay and
still has no foundation."

But the judge allowed it anyway.
Quote from Fogel's lawyer regarding some of UNUM's "evidence" about her
financial problems "Your honor, the only reason for putting this up is
because this is more mud slinging, and the fact that they say, you know,
we go dig up mud on someone and we rely upon it so we can use it at the
time of trial."

Anyway they go on to discuss how her doctor reported that her medical
condition has remained essentially unchanged throughout this whole time.

Fogel's lawyer states that in California "you could not require Federal
Tax Returns to be provided by the client."

Corliss responds "I knew that I could not require them, but I could
REQUEST them."

Other people involved in this claim - it's not clear what they did -
Patricia M. Hershey, Mark Reger
Here's a good one:
Fogel's attorney "What's the purpose for ordering such a report? [The
SuperBureau Report which Corliss claims is NOT a credit report but which
obviously is.]

Corliss: "I don't order the reports, so I can't give you the purpose."
[Pass the Blame. Because she did review this report before she even
talked to the claimant and admitted it might a have affected her "state
of mind."]

Fogel's attorney "Could you tell me please, how this information helped
you determine either the occupation or the medical condition of Ms.
Fogel?"...."Can you tell me how this information from Equifax [the
credit report] helps you determine occupation and/or medical condition?"

Corliss: "This is simply another tool that may assist in that
evaluation." [This is one of their strategies.  If the purpose of the
information is prejudicial, just claim it's a "tool" that the company
uses.  Sort of like if you went to the dentist and among his usual
dental tools you saw a jackhammer, might make you wonder.]

So all along Corliss insists that she was "helping" Fogel since her
benefits were being paid. So Fogel's attorney then says "and then you
changed your mind and suspended benefits, didn't you, somewhere down the

Corliss: "No, I did not." [Later we'll get to the letter Corliss signed
cutting off Fogel's benefits.]

Fogel's attorney:"One of the reasons that this is ordered, is it not
true, Miss Corliss, such a report is ordered is to see if you can dig up
information that would reflect negatively on the insured, isn't that

Corliss: "No, it is not.  In fact, Mr. Branconier, THIS IS THE FIRST

[Unfortunately Branconier, Fogel's attorney felt he'd made his point and
didn't delve into this a little deeper. Of course in earlier testimony
Corliss has said these reports are routinely ordered.]

Here's something from an internal memo received from the Law Firm to
Corliss regarding their investigation of Fogel's legal background:

"Please let me know if you would like us to review any of these files or
if you would like to have an investigator do that.  Most of these cases
are quite old and the only one that might provide some helpful and
relatively current information is the divorce file....Please let us know
if you would like us to obtain a copy of that file."

[My input, Fogel apparently got sued for legal malpractice a few times
by clients that lost and then didn't want to pay their fees - right or
wrong I make no call on that.  But at the time she HAD legal malpractice
insurance which she felt might have caused some of these people to sue
for legal malpractice just to get out of paying the bills to her.
Whether there was legal malpractice or not I don't know.  However since
these cases are all "quite old" it would seem that since she stopped
carrying malpractice insurance, she hasn't been sued by clients. Now the
question is: Did she get sued because she was guilty of malpractice or
BECAUSE she had malpractice insurance and therefore some other lawyer
saw some money in it?  Just makes you wonder.]

So Ms. Corliss doesn't "recall" if she ever requested any of the further
records or the divorce file
Few more names Kathy La Sot - a claims assistant, and somebody named
Kelley a "specialist handling," Shelley Minod - says she "was" a claims
assistant - someone should try to contact this woman - she might be an

Here's Corliss's answer to letters written to her by Fogel's son "It is
impossible for us to respond to your numerous complaints that are
without any basis."
Fogel's attorney : "Did you ever identify to Ms. Fogel yourself as
someone working for UNUM?"

Corliss:  "I don't recall."  [This is the other thing they are
apparently told to say if they don't want to answer the question.]
So after a few months requesting tax returns they have no right to,
having a home visit with UNUM's field rep, digging up dirt, and
insisting on an IME Corliss sends out a letter with the following

"Please understand that Ms. Fogel's further failure to cooperate with
our reasonable information requests leave us not other alternative but
to suspend benefits."

Fogel's attorney: "so if she did not give you the information by October
5, you were going to suspend benefits, isn't that right?"

Corliss: "Based on this letter, I would have no other alternative but to
suspend benefits."

Fogel's Attorney: "NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE.  You mean the only choice here
was to either provide the documents or suspend benefits, there was no in
between, is that your testimony?"

At this point UNUM's Rennick objects and Corliss proceeds to avoid
answering the question yes or no, claiming she doesn't understand the

A slew of objections by UNUM after this and Corliss finally says "I
can't answer that question"  [I believe the rest of this answer should
be "on the grounds that it would incriminate me."]

Now Corliss gives a bunch of "I don't recall's" and "I can't answer
[Then there is some discussion I'm not quite clear on.  Supposedly
Fogel's attorney is trying to claim his client was somehow singled out
BECAUSE she's a solo practicing female lawyer in California.  He refers
to something called UNUM's Individual Disability Benefits Guide.  It
gets kind of confusing here.  I'm not sure if there is something in this
guide about singling out certain claims but apparently it does make the
point that "whatever you write in a file amy be part of a
litigation..might end up in court."
[Then there's something discussed called a "round table" discussion
where members of the "unit" would get together to discuss a "work plan"
or "work idea" for the handling of that claim. In Ms. Fogel's case the
following people were sent a memo about a "round table" discussion:
Maureen Keeley
Mary Fuller
Andrew Bernstein
Margaret Downing
Dominique La Gravine
The last two were involved in the handling of my case too.]
There's mention of a Clark Bridges to pursue something "from his end."
Then Corliss claimed she was off the case after October and didn't know
about the benefits being terminated but there are several other phone
calls and notations up until February of the following year signed by
her.  Each time she claims she was covering for the new adjuster that
just happened to be on vacation.
Here's something important for people with lawsuits:

Fogel's lawyer: "What was your goal you were trying to achieve by asking
Ms. Fogel for the information involving case lists, the tax information,
what was your goal, all the stuff that you were asking for from Ms.
Fogel, what was the goal that you were trying to acheive?"

After some BS, Corliss states "We have an obligation to investigate
every single claim fully."

[I'm going to repeat this.  UNUM's claims adjuster states "WE HAVE AN

The point here is if after you file suit, after your are denied or
terminated, you continue to get questions from UNUM about your telephone
habits, credit card reports, daily activities, college roommates,
requests for affidavits from former co-workers, etc. etc. all those
harassing and time consuming questions they ask AFTER YOU FILE SUIT, 
that is clear and convincing EVIDENCE that they did NOT FULLY
investigate your claim in the first place and therefore your claims
management was NOT in good faith.  You should not have to answer any
further questions about ANYTHING once your claim is denied.  The fact
that they are asking further questions indicates that they did not
investigate FULLY BEFORE they denied or terminated your claim, and that

Phew, that's the end of Carolyn Corliss's testimony.  It took a while
but I think Fogel's lawyer was trying to make the point that the reason
behind UNUM's "claims processing" is to put prejudicial, embarassing, or
intimidating information INTO the claims file, so they can then
regurgitate this stuff in front of a jury.  UNUM's adjuster's only
answer for why they needed credit checks, names of court cases, tax
returns and all that other information was "as a tool," "I can't
recall," or "I can't answer that question."  UNUM, of course, was trying
to make the point that this lawyer had had some problems (haven't we
all) and therefore is suspect - but of what they won't come out and
say.  So now we all know what it's like to be the target of a smear


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Created: August 11, 1997
Last Updated: May 28, 2000