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On May 7, 1993, Lee L. Gibson was a prep cook at The Garden Cafe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, when he slipped and fell in the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. He aggravated a 1990 back injury and was hospitalized for a week. He filed for workers’ compensation. A claims representative for the workers’ compensation insurer, ITT Hartford Insurance Co., determined that Gibson had sustained a workplace injury, making him eligible for benefits. On May 18, ITT Hartford began paying weekly benefits and covering Gibson’s medical expenses. Gibson continued to be unable to return to work. By May 1994, Gibson’s doctor, Patrick Bowman, assessed his disability at 22 percent from the 1990 accident and 28 percent total impairment. This meant that the 1993 accident added another 6 percent permanent impairment. The doctor also cleared Gibson to work again. But the cafe did not hire Gibson back, and he was unable to find another job. Bowman referred Gibson to a psychiatrist for treatment of major depression. In August 1994, ITT Hartford ended Gibson’s benefits. The insurer also refused to pay for the psychiatric treatment. Gibson filed a petition with the Iowa industrial commissioner, seeking additional weekly benefits and medical care. In response, ITT Hartford denied that a work-related injury had ever occurred. In January 1995, Gibson and his wife sued ITT Hartford, charging bad faith, abuse of process, intentional interference with a contract, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In 1998, in the first jury trial, Judge J.C. Irvin granted ITT’s motions for directed verdicts on claims for punitive damages, emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty. The jury found for the Gibsons on the other charges. The Gibsons appealed the judge’s punitives ruling and the Iowa Supreme Court reversed in January 2001. This trial concerned only punitives. On April 19, the jury awarded the Gibsons $20 million. Plaintiffs’ attorney: W. Curtis Hewett, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Defense attorney: Lee Baty, Baty, Holm & Numrich, Kansas City, Mo.

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