Dr. Evangeline C. Pizarro does not understand any benefit, long-term or
otherwise, from Medical Assurance's "aggressive defense of claims."
Pizarro has quit her Wheeling practice and lives in fear of losing her
house because of that defensive stance, a lawsuit she filed against the
Pizarro alleges that Medical Assurance ignored her when she
repeatedly asked the insurer to settle a malpractice claim filed against
The family suing Pizarro offered to settle the case for $300,000 - well
within the $1 million policy she had with Medical Assurance. But
the insurer refused; its "aggressive defense of claims" includes an
avoidance of settlement.
Pizarro's lawyer, provided by Medical Assurance, told her not to
worry about the rejected settlement offer. The lawyer, William A. Davis,
or anything," the suit alleges.
Pizarro's case went to trial in August. The Belmont County, Ohio, jury
returned a $7.5 million verdict against her. The judge in the case may
award the family even more: Their lawyers allege that because
Medical Assurance refused to try and settle the case in "good
faith," the family deserves interest dating back to when they first filed
Pizarro agrees in her suit that Medical Assurance "failed to act
in good faith." She sued after Medical Assurance balked at honoring
her insurance policy and pledging to pay the jury award.
Medical Assurance has asked a judge to dismiss Pizarro's
lawsuit. Their defense: Pizarro may not have known it, but she promised
That policy includes a clause requiring doctors to submit disputes to
binding arbitration. Pizarro says she knew nothing of the clause when she
Cassidy of Wheeling, questions how many other doctors realize they signed
this right away when they decided to do business with Medical
"They have not had any direct influence"
West Virginia Medical Association Director Evan Jenkins said he
knew little of Pizarro's allegations when he met with Gazette editors and
a reporter last month. Jenkins also said he did not know whether his
members knew they had signed binding arbitration clauses when they bought
insurance from Medical Assurance.
In addition to their secretdeal, the association
publicly lists Medical Assurance as its preferred carrier. Jenkins
"I think that the medical community embraces this aggressive
defense policy," he
Jenkins did not return a half-dozen phone messages left last week
requesting comment on the secret agreement. Dr. John Holloway, the
group's president, said Friday that he did not know how much money
Medical Assurance has provided.
Holloway also said the association's legislative committee, and not
Medical Assurance, has crafted its lobbying agenda.
"Obviously, we've had lots of conversations with them about the
liability climate, but they have not had any direct influence." Holloway
Frank O'Neil, a vice president of Medical Assurance at its
Alabama headquarters, would not say how much money has been paid to the
association. "Our agreement on that is confidential," he
O'Neil did say that Medical Assurance expected to share no
profits with West Virginia doctors this year, citing premium-loss ratio
figures. He agreed with Holloway on the insurer's sway over the
"We help supply information to the association when requested," he
their literature on their own."
To contact staff writer Lawrence Messina, use e-mail or call 348-4869.