Galveston County suit alleges employer failed to pay disability benefits

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Feb. 18, 2009, 5:52pm

GALVESTON – A Scottish man is suing his former employer and its insurance carrier in Galveston County District Court in an effort to recover withheld insurance money, recent court documents say.

In a deceptive trade lawsuit filed on Feb. 2, Eric J. Caldwell of Aberdeen says Houston-based Transocean Inc. and CIGNA Worldwide International Insurance Co. refused to pay his disability benefits after he sustained orthopedic injuries while on the job despite a contract clause directing the defendants to do so.

"The plaintiff is entitled to receive severance pay and other contractual benefits from his employer(s) which they failed to provide and which sums are now past due," the suit says. "His employer(s) breached their contract of employment."

During his stint, Caldwell and Transocean entered into a contract which states the plaintiff was to be paid benefits, severance pay, and other compensation upon his termination of employment for reasons beyond his control.

Caldwell's complaint argues the injuries rendered him permanently disabled as that term is defined in the policy of insurance of which he is a third party beneficiary.

The plaintiff insists his claim was denied though he fulfilled the plan's obligations and negotiated the necessary avenues.

"The denial of disability benefits by CIGNA and the plan administrator is unreasonable and without rational basis and is a breach of contract to the plaintiff," the suit says. "The denial evidences bad faith in claim handling and a breach of the fiduciary duty owed to the plaintiff."

Consequently, Caldwell sues for his full benefits for his disability under the insurance policy as well as attorney fees and costs and treble damages under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act and the Texas Insurance Code.

He also seeks a jury trial.

Doucette attorney Joseph C. Blanks is representing Caldwell. The case has been assigned to Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox.

Case No. 09CV0142

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