Valley Girl's Death Spurs Lawsuit Against CIGNA
Today's L.A. Times' Business section looks at the battle of a San Fernando Valley couple fighting a health-care giant over the death of their daughter. Nataline Sarkisyan was 17 when CIGNA rejected her family's request for the medical insurer to cover a liver-transplant operation urged by her UCLA doctors. According to writer Lisa Girion, CIGNA dismissed the operation as an experimental procedure. Nine days of bad publicity later, the insurer relented, but too late to save the Northridge teen's life. Under federal law, her family could not sue CIGNA. However, Nataline's mother, Hilda, has been given the okay by federal judge Gary Feess to go after CIGNA for emotional damages. That's because when Hilda Sarkisyan later showed up at the company's Philadelphia headquarters to complain, employees began heckling the mother, with one person giving her the finger.
The Times piece goes into detail about how and why the laws protect medical providers from being sued for deadly denial-of-service decisions, and why family survivors seldom file wrongful-death claims. Look for appearances by celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos and Wendell Potter, the CIGNA flack-turned-whistleblower who occasionally appears on Real Time With Bill Maher.