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Insurer shouldn't have relied on newspaper story


A local newspaper reported that a Louisiana log-truck driver named Cornelious George fought with a police SWAT team that entered his home on a drug bust mission.

At the time he was receiving temporary total disability benefits for post traumatic stress disorder that followed from an accident in which two women died after the car they were in pulled in front of Mr. George's logging truck.

After the drug bust his employer's workers compensation insurer, Stonetrust Commercial Insurance Co., unilaterally terminated Mr. George's disability benefits.

The insurer reasoned that if Mr. George was capable of assaulting a police officer and dealing drugs, he was physically and mentally capable of driving a truck, according to court records in the case of Stonetrust vs. Cornelious George.

That set off the court fight that eventually went before a Louisiana court of appeal where the insurer also argued that Mr. George lied to obtain workers comp benefits.

But the appeals court agreed with Louisiana's Office of Workers' Compensation that the newspaper story got it wrong.

According to testimony from an arresting officer, Mr. George did not have an opportunity to strike him and Mr. George testified that when the SWAT team arrived in the dark he thought someone was breaking into his home.

So he ran out a door and ran over the first thing that was in front of him, namely, an officer.

So the picture that had been painted of Mr. George refusing to go down without a fight was incorrect, the court said.

“Thus, it is clear that by relying solely on a factually unreliable newspaper article as the basis for the termination of benefits, Stonetrust did not make a reasonably reliable determination,” that Mr. George was not entitled to benefits, court records state.

Additionally, the appeals court said it failed to see a correlation between an ability to deal drugs, attack an officer, and drive a logging truck.

“The incidents of the night of his arrest, as published in the newspaper article, are not credible, nor do they make any sort of medical conclusions about George's mental health or his ability to drive a log truck,” the court said.

It also found that George's statements to obtain benefits did not amount to fraud.

But the court did find the insurer liable for $20,000 in attorney fees and penalties and Mr. George eventually pled guilty to simple possession of marijuana, for which he received a 1-year probation sentence.