OKLAHOMA CITY – A jury has awarded an Oklahoma family a big settlement after they took their insurance provider to court.
This week, a jury awarded the estate of Orrana Cunningham and her husband, Ron Cunningham, more than $15 million in damages.
In 2014, Orrana was diagnosed with Stage Four nasopharyngeal cancer.
Orrana and her husband went to Houston for treatment, and doctors suggested proton therapy treatment to cure her cancer.
“Here, we are people in Oklahoma that just stood up to a big conglomerate, Aetna,” Ron said.
Their insurance provider, Aetna, denied the coverage three times, despite a jury learning the treatment was covered under their plan.
At some point, Aetna dropped the coverage, only making it available for those under 21.
“When this all started with Aetna not filling their contracts and denying my wife’s claims, my wife, her goal was to make this fight,” Ron said.
Ron decided to mortgage their home at $92,000 to help pay for Orrana’s treatment.
Orrana was finally cleared of treatment and healthy enough to go home, but then she developed a virus that spread to her brain. Sadly, she passed away.
“We pushed a really big rock up a steep hill for a long time to get here,” said Doug Terry, Ron’s attorney.
Terry claims Aetna’s medical staff who denied the claims were unqualified and overworked. They also learned the three doctors and three nurses who denied the claims received bonuses from the insurance company.
“They were biased because Aetna pays profit base bonuses to people who make claim decisions,” Terry said.
The jury found Aetna guilty of reckless disregard and awarded Ron his $92,000 back and an additional $500,000. Orrana’s estate was awarded $15 million.
On Tuesday, the jury awarded Ron $10 million in punitive damages.
“I truly believe this opens the door, that it allows people to understand and question the insurance companies where most people just give up,” Ron said.
Aetna denied News 4’s request for an interview.
Ron said his next step is lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow insurance companies to offer proton therapy if a doctor requests the treatment.