Jenny Wang

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Jenny H. Wang is a partner in the firm’s Newport Beach office. She practices business litigation, with an emphasis on first-party insurance coverage disputes involving bad faith allegations. Her practice includes ERISA-governed benefits litigation and representation of workers’ compensation insurance carriers in premium disputes. Ms. Wang has successfully represented national corporations at the state, federal and appellate court levels. She has obtained favorable results for her clients in all phases of litigation, including at the pleading stage and by way of motions for summary judgment. Ms. Wang is an editor and regular contributor of her firm’s Life, Health and Disability Insurance Law blog.

Articles By This Author

SCOTUS Rules: Right or wrong, arbitrator's interpretation stands

The United States Supreme Court in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter held that an arbitration agreement in a fee-for-services contract between physicians and a health insurance company required arbitration of a class dispute arising under the contract.

Sutter, a physician, entered into a contract with Oxford, a health insurer, to provide medical services to members of Oxford’s network. Oxford agreed to pay for Sutter’s services at an agreed upon rate. Sutter later filed suit against Oxford on behalf of himself and a proposed class of other physicians who also contracted with Oxford. Sutter’s complaint alleged that Oxford failed to reimburse the putative class as required by the contract and applicable state law.

Oxford moved to compel arbitration, relying upon a provision in the contract requiring arbitration of “any dispute arising under this Agreement.” The motion was granted, and the arbitrator determined that the contract authorized class arbitration. In doing so, the arbitrator relied upon the language of the contract’s arbitration provision.

Oxford moved to vacate the arbitrator’s decision on the grounds that he exceeded his powers under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) Section 10(a)(4) by, in effect, misinterpreting and/or improperly applying the arbitration provision. 

The Supreme Court held that the arbitrator’s decision could not be vacated because it was arguably based upon the arbitrator’s interpretation of the parties’ contract, and, right or wrong, the parties had contracted to arbitrate their disputes. 

In so holding, the Court observed that in construing whether an arbitrator exceeded his powers under the FAA, “the question for a judge is not whether the arbitrator construed the parties’ contract correctly, but whether he construed it at all.” 

Originally posted to Barger & Wolen's Insurance Litigation & Regulatory Law blog.

The Words "Accidental Bodily Injury" in a Disability Insurance Policy Connote an Injury Produced by a Sudden Event

Bilezikjian v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of America, __ F. Supp. 2d __ (C.D. Cal. Jan. 25, 2010).

Without a sudden event, an insured’s injury does not constitute an “accidental bodily injury” within the meaning of a disability insurance policy that distinguishes between accident versus sickness. Where it was undisputed that the insured’s disabling condition -- carpal tunnel syndrome (or “CTS”) -- was caused by repetitive and forceful activities in which the insured had engaged for years in connection with his occupation as an orthopedic surgeon, the insured’s disability was not due to an “accidental bodily injury” as a matter of law. This was the common-sense approach taken by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Bilezikjian v. Unum Life Insurance Co. of America.

Bilezikjian was insured under several disability income policies issued to him by Unum Life. The insurance policies provided that benefits were payable up to age 65 for disability due to “sickness.” The policies also provided that lifetime benefits were payable for disabilities due to “accidental bodily injury,” terms that were not further defined.

Bilezikjian collected total disability benefits for his CTS under the sickness provision of his policies for years until he reached age 65. However, as Bilezikjian neared age 65, he sought ongoing benefits under the policies’ “accidental bodily injury” provision, asserting that his CTS should be considered accidental because he never intended to render himself totally disabled. Unum Life determined that Bilezikjian’s CTS was not due to an accidental bodily injury. Bilezikjian then filed suit for breach of contract, bad faith and punitive damages.

Unum Life moved for summary judgment on all claims, primarily on the basis that in accordance with Gin v. Pennsylvania Life Insurance Co., 134 Cal. App. 4th 939 (2005), “the culmination of repetitive stresses caused by normal, everyday activities is not the result of an accidental bodily injury.” Bilezikjian pursued a cross motion for partial summary judgment on his contract claim.

In granting Unum Life’s motion and denying Bilezikjian’s cross motion, the District Court held that the terms “accidental bodily injury” were unambiguous and that Unum Life did not breach its insurance contracts with Bilezikjian when it concluded that his CTS was not covered under the policies’ “accidental bodily injury” provision.

Jenny Wang is counsel for Unum Life in this matter.

No ERISA Preemption of California Statute Requiring Health Care Service Plans to Reimburse Providers for Cost of Emergency Care

Coast Plaza Doctors Hospital v. Blue Cross of Calif., 2009 WL 1272631 (Cal. App. 2nd Dist. May 11, 2009)

The California Court of Appeal has held that a claim against a health care insurer that is violated California Health and Safety Code Section 1371.4 (“Section 1371.4”) is not preempted by ERISA. In Coast Plaza Doctors Hospital v. Blue Cross of Calif., 2009 WL 1272631 (Cal. App. 2nd Dist. May 11, 2009), Coast Plaza Doctors Hospital (“Coast Plaza”) provided emergency care to a patient who was enrolled in a group health plan insured by Blue Cross of California (“Blue Cross”).  Coast Plaza was an “out-of-network” provider because it did not contract with Blue Cross to provide services to Blue Cross plan participants or beneficiaries. Coast Plaza billed Blue Cross over $580,000 in costs incurred to provide emergency care to the patient. Blue Cross refused to pay the bill, contending that Coast Plaza did not submit sufficient information to demonstrate that the services were rendered in connection with a medical emergency. 

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Emotional Distress Damages in a Bad Faith Action Must Result from Economic Loss

Major v. Western Home Ins. Co., 169 Cal. App. 4th 1197 (2009).

Emotional distress damages in an insurance bad faith action must be “tied” to economic loss in order to be recoverable. Specifically, emotional distress damages are not recoverable without economic loss, and emotional distress damages must relate to the amount of economic loss suffered.

The Majors sued their home insurer, Western, for losses arising out of a fire that destroyed their home and all personal belongings. The Majors obtained a jury verdict in their favor consisting of, among other things, approximately $31,000 in economic damages and $450,000 in noneconomic damages. The factual findings included a determination that Western unreasonably handled the Majors’ claim and that the Majors were financially vulnerable. Western asserted on appeal that the noneconomic, or emotional distress, damages awarded were excessive as a matter of law.

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