Airtran Airways, a large domestic airline, has recently sued and obtained a judgment in excess of $280,000 against its longtime employee Brenda Elem, after she was severely injured in a car wreck.
Ms. Elem began working in 2002 for Atlanta based Airtran Airways, a billion dollar airline which is owned by Southwest Airlines. The entire time Elem worked for Airtran, she always paid health insurance premiums to Aetna through the airline’s employee benefit program. In 2007, Elem was injured in a car wreck and suffered significant injuries for which Aetna paid $134,000 in related medical expenses. Airtran sued Ms.
Elem to recover the full $134,000 paid by Aetna and now amazingly stands to collect over $280,000, an amount that almost exceeds the entire amount Elem personally received in her settlement with the driver that caused her injuries. While many regular Americans have had their rights to recover damages for their personal injuries curtailed as a reaction to frivolous lawsuits, the system in this case has rewarded a billion dollar corporation for pursuing money from its own employee for medical expenses paid by an insurance company.
The judgment obtained against Elem stems from a March 2007 car wreck which occurred when Elem was driving her car in Marietta, Georgia, and another driver lost control of his vehicle and slammed into her. She was taken to an Atlanta hospital and treated for serious injuries. Elem underwent years of medical treatment, numerous surgeries and lengthy physical therapy. Elem will never completely recover from her injuries and will have difficulty walking for the rest of her life. At the time of the wreck, Elem had worked for Airtran for many years and paid into the employee benefit program for her Aetna health insurance coverage. Elem turned to the law firm of Link & Smith to file a lawsuit against the driver that caused the wreck. Eventually her case against the driver was settled, and Elem thought the worst was behind her.
Shockingly, after her settlement with the driver that slammed into her, Elem and her lawyers were then sued by her own employer, Airtran, to recover the full amount of her medical expenses that Aetna had already paid. Incredibly, Airtran, a billion dollar airline, also sued Elem for money to pay for its own attorneys that brought the case in the first place. Elem did not think that Airtran’s suit was fair, and fought Airtran in Federal Court in Atlanta for two years.
According to court documents, Airtran’s lawyers racked up over $204,000 in fees to recover $134,000 of medical costs. It is astounding that a billion dollar corporation like Airtran can hire lawyers and spend over $204,000 to recover $134,000. Ultimately, Judge Orinda Evans ruled that Elem and her attorneys should pay Airtran $281,120.08, an amount that nearly exceeds what Elem personally received in her own lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Airtran now stands to collect more than twice of what was paid out for Elem’s medical bills which will leave Ms. Elem with nothing, despite her debilitating injuries. In these tough economic times, it is appalling that a huge corporation like Airtran is not only willing, but is able to sue a valued employee like Elem to recoup medical expenses paid by Aetna.
If you disagree with this, call Airtran.
This article submitted for an attorney in Atlanta.