(For Immediate Release)
Tracy L. Hickman
March 23, 2010
S. F. Consumer Insurance Lawyer, Lee Harris, Provided Key CA State Senate Testimony Helping Pass SB 621 - Disability Insurance Consumer Protection
Lee S. Harris is a nationally recognized lawyer with over 30 years in practice helping individuals and small business with ERISA and bad faith insurance issues. (See http://www.sfbadfaithlawyer.com/). Mr. Harris is a named partner in the SF law firm G3MH (Goldstein, Gellman, Melbostad, Harris & McSparran, LLP).
He testified in front of the California Senate Insurance Committee on Senate Bill 621.
The core of his testimony included the following:
- Most employer provided disability insurance policies written by insurance companies are governed by Federal ERISA law and have "discretionary language" giving the insurance company broad discretion to interpret the policy and facts to suit their needs.
- When this language exists in a policy are bound to follow the insurance companies decision EVEN IF IT IS WRONG unless there is a very high proof showing of an "abuse of discretion". The deck is stacked in favor of the "Plan" and the insurance company.
- Insurance companies have "bulked up" their claims "review" departments to "gather" facts from in house consultants and doctors relying on this loophole to create basis for denying claims to the detriment of claimants.
- Disabled workers are often in the most vulnerable position, both physically and financially, without adequate resources to adequately respond on to these types of procedural games.
- States are allowed under ERISA law to continue to regulate insurance companies and can enact laws to close insurance coverage and interpretation loopholes. AB 1868 would close the "discretionary clause" loophole and allow judges to "judge" facts as they normally do--as primary deciders of fact.
As one of the preeminent insurance, bad faith & ERISA attorneys in the state, Lee currently serves as Vice President & director of Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC and has received numerous Presidential Awards of Merit. He is recognized as a fellow of the American Bar Association and as one of the Northern California Super Lawyers in his field. He is admitted to practice in State and Federal court in California and is also admitted to the 9th circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court and has appeared pro hac vice in many courts around the country.
Mr. Harris received his undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard and his law degree from the University of San Francisco in 1977. He has authored articles and lectured on insurance coverage, jury selection, injury and disability cases and other topics. He has instructed at the Stanford Law School Trial Advocacy Skills Program, Hastings College of Advocacy and the University of San Francisco School of Law Intensive Advocacy Program. He is also a past president of the USF Law Alumni Association.