Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in Maryland and Florida are appealing a $7.2 million jury award made last week to the parents of two quadriplegic sons. All but $700,000 of the award was in punitive damages.
Robert and Margaret Weiner had argued that the two companies had canceled their insurance without due notice.A Broward Circuit Court jury agreed, deciding that the insurance companies were wrong, and awarded the Dania, Fla., couple $7.2 million.
In Baltimore, a Blue Cross spokesman said the company had 30 days in which to complete the appeal filing process.
The Weiners had filed suit against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland and Florida one month after the companies stopped paying claims in August 1983 without notice. The companies contended that Jeff Weiner, then 19, was an over-age dependent, and that Steven Weiner, 22 at the time, was ineligible
because he was not a full-time student.
Steven was forced to quit college in mid-1982 after the AIDS virus attacked his nervous system and paralyzed him, according to the family's attorney, Larry Stewart. Steven has since died. Mr. Stewart said Jeff suffered a broken neck in a swimming accident in August 1982, four months before his coverage would have expired because of an age clause banning coverage for children over 19 who are not full-time students.
"It was a big issue as to who made the decision to terminate these boys," Mr. Stewart said. "We never found out through the whole trial. To this day - after the verdict and everything - we still don't know."
The jury decided after a month-long trial that the companies misrepresented the terms of the policy and that both were reckless and negligent in executing the health plan.
As a result, the jury demanded that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland pay $5.5 million in damages for its role as creator and underwriter of the policy. The balance of $1.7 million was levied against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida as the local administrator.