01.26.2018

Insureds Failed to State a Claim for the Wrongful Withholding of Money or Property from Vulnerable Persons

In Bates v. Bankers Life and Cas. Co., 362 Or 337 (2018), the Oregon Supreme Court addressed the certified question involving ORS 124.110(1)(b), which addresses financial abuse of vulnerable persons.  The certified question was:  “Does a plaintiff state a claim under Oregon Revised Statutes 124.110(1)(b) for wrongful withholding of money or property where it is alleged that an insurance company has in bad faith delayed the processing of claims and refused to pay benefits owed under an insurance contract?”  The plaintiffs were elderly persons who had purchased long-term care insurance policies from the defendant insurance company.  The plaintiffs claimed that the insurer developed onerous procedures to delay and deny insurance claims.  The court held that plaintiffs had failed to state a claim under the statute:  “[W]e answer in the negative:  Allegations that an insurance company, in bad faith, delayed the processing of claims and refused to pay benefits owed to vulnerable persons under an insurance contract do not state a claim under ORS 124.110(1)(b) for wrongful withholding of ‘money or property.’”  The court reasoned that Section (1)(b) of the statute applies where a vulnerable person entrusts his or her money or property to another, who in bad faith refuses to return that money or property.  This requirement was not satisfied because the plaintiffs were not seeking the return of the money that they had transferred to the insurer but were seeking contractual benefits under the insurance policies.

 

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Posted by Geoff Bedell