September 15, 2009
Positive SC Man Wins $10M After Insurer Denied Health Coverage
The South Carolina Supreme Court on September 14 upheld a verdict against Fortis Insurance Company for revoking a man’s health coverage after he tested HIV positive; it did so based on a nurse writing down the wrong year of his test, The Associated Press reports.
According to the article, the court called the insurer’s actions “highly reprehensible” but reduced punitive damages awarded to Jerome Mitchell Jr. from $15 million to $10 million.
Mitchell found out he was HIV positive after trying to donate blood in 2002. The American Red Cross informed him that his blood sample tested positive for HIV antibodies; a separate doctor’s visit confirmed his serostatus. Fortis told Mitchell that they revoked his policy because he did not report his status when he applied for insurance before heading to college when he was 17, in 2001. According to court records, the company affirmed that a nurse’s note on Mitchell’s chart placed his diagnosis date at one day before his application for insurance.
Mitchell later hired a lawyer who sent Fortis the original test results with the correct date, but a committee upheld revoking of coverage leaving Mitchell without health insurance for 20 months before the insurer changed its mind.
The justices wrote that the company’s “conduct involved repeated acts of deliberate indifference for more than two years.”
Search: South Carolina, Fortis, health insurance
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