Florence Corcoran – Slidell, LA
Florence Corcoran tragically discovered that the ERISA loophole stripped her of her rights and remedies to protect herself under state law. Her case has become the most frequently cited precedent used by HMOs hiding from state lawsuits.
According to court records:
Corcoran was faced with a high-risk pregnancy. Her obstetrician ordered her hospitalized, as she had been successfully in a previous high-risk pregnancy. Yet her managed health care company overruled her doctor and denied the hospitalization, even though they had a second opinion agreeing with the doctor’s advice. Instead Corcoran’s insurer ordered home nursing for only 10 hours each day.
During the last month of Corcoran’s pregnancy, when no nurse was on duty, the baby went into distress. Denied the monitors and care of the hospital, the baby died.
Because Corcoran received her health insurance through her employer, the ERISA loophole freed her insurer from liability. Mrs. Corcoran’s wrongful death action in Louisiana state court, alleging medical malpractice, was preempted.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Carolyn Dineen King ruled in the case that "the basic facts are undisputed," but "the result ERISA compels us to reach means that the Corcorans have no remedy, state, or federal, for what may have been a serious mistake." She continued, saying ERISA "eliminates an important check on the thousands of medical decisions routinely made. With liability rules generally inapplicable, there is theoretically less deterrence of substandard medical decision making."
"If I go out on the street and murder a person, I am thrown in jail for murder and held accountable," said Corcoran. "What’s the difference between me and this clerk thousands of miles away making a life decision which took the life of my baby and she gets off scot-free and keeps her job. They don’t get held accountable. And that’s what appalls me. I relive that all the time. Insurance companies don’t answer to nobody. Nobody knows about ERISA."