Mont. woman awarded $34M in insurance lawsuit

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 90-year-old woman residing in an assisted-living facility in Billings has won a $34.2 million judgment against her Omaha, Neb.-based insurance company for suspending payments for her dementia care.

Arlene Hull and her daughter sued Ability Insurance Co. in 2010 after the company ended her assisted-living benefits. Ability said Hull no longer qualified after a review found she didn't need "continual supervision due to a severe cognitive impairment" and that her doctor said she was moderately, not severely, impaired.

Hull's attorney, Mike Abourezk, said the company misinterpreted the policy and misapplied the rules.

The Billings Gazette reports ( ) the benefits were restored last year, but the company refused to pay for the nearly two years during which coverage was denied.

After a trial last week, the jury on Friday awarded Hull $250,000 for breach of contract; $2 million for violation of Montana's Unfair Trade Practices law; and $32 million in punitive damages.

Hull, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007, did not testify, but the jury saw video of her.

Another of Hull's attorneys, Daniel Bidegaray of Bozeman, said he expected Ability to seek to reduce the punitive damages because the state caps such awards at $10 million. He also expected them to appeal.

Ability attorney Paul Collins declined comment on the jury's decision or the possibility of an appeal.


Information from: Billings Gazette,