OCTOBER 2018 BAD FAITH CASES: INSURERS INVESTIGATING EVIDENCE OF FRAUDULENT CLAIMS PRACTICES HAD REASONABLE BASIS TO DENY MEDICAL PROVIDERS’ CLAIMS (Philadelphia Federal)

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Medical providers brought bad faith claims under Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), alleging they were among a targeted set of medical providers whose claims for services were pre-ordained for denial. As set forth in yesterday’s post, the same insurers had brought claims against these same providers for insurance fraud.

The providers argued the insurers violated the “MVFRL by unreasonably and in bad faith denying all Defendants’ treatment claims submitted after the start of Plaintiffs’ … fraud action, without ‘any consideration of the actual treatment provided or injuries suffered by the patients.’”

“Under §1797 of the MVFRL, treble damages are available if the claiming party can prove ‘1) they submitted bills for reasonable and necessary treatment, 2) Plaintiffs did not challenge the bills before a Peer Review Organization (“PRO”), and 3) Plaintiffs’ conduct was ‘wanton’. … ‘Wanton and bad faith may be equated, because intentionally doing an unreasonable act (acting wantonly) is the equivalent of knowingly ignoring a lack of a reasonable belief for a denial (acting in bad faith).’”

The court ruled that the providers’ arguments that all of their claims were funneled to one adjuster was insufficient to show wanton or bad faith conduct. The court further found that the insurers had a reasonable basis to deny the claims; and that the conclusory allegation the insurance fraud assertions were a ruse to fend off legitimate claims was insufficient to make out a case for bad faith.

Rather, the court found the insurers “met their burden in showing there is no genuine dispute that they stopped payment to Defendants for post-litigation bills out of a ‘bona fide belief that Defendants’ bills were fraudulent,’ after ‘observing non-credible patterns in Defendants’ records’ indicating to Plaintiffs that the records had been falsified in order to induce payment.” Summary judgment was granted on this issue, as “[t]he record establishes beyond genuine dispute that Plaintiffs had a basis for denying Defendants’ claims submitted after the commencement of this litigation, when Plaintiffs were on alert that Defendants’ claims could be fraudulent.”

Date of Decision: September 28, 2018

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Stavropolskiy, U. S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania CIVIL ACTION NOS. 15-05929 and NO. 16-01374, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167425, 2018 WL 4680241 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 28, 2018) (Joyner, J.)

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