From our private database of 14,100+ case briefs...
Aetna Life Insurance Company v. Lavoie
United States Supreme Court
475 U.S. 813 (1986)
Margaret and Roger Lavoie (plaintiffs) had medical insurance through Aetna Life Insurance Company (Aetna) (defendant). In bad faith, Aetna refused to pay for some of Margaret’s medical expenses. The Lavoies sued Aetna in state trial court, seeking payment and punitive damages. The trial court dismissed the bad-faith claim. The Lavoies appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded the trial court’s dismissal. On remand, the jury awarded the Lavoies $3.5 million in punitive damages, one of the largest punitive-damages awards ever awarded in a bad-faith case. Aetna appealed, and the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the award in a five-to-four decision. Justice Embry cast the deciding vote. Aetna later learned that Justice Embry had filed an action in a county court in Alabama against Blue Cross-Blue Shield (Blue Cross), alleging a bad-faith failure to pay claims. Aetna filed a motion challenging Justice Embry’s participation in Aetna’s case. The state supreme court unanimously denied Aetna’s motion for recusal. Aetna later obtained a copy of Justice Embry’s deposition transcript in the Blue Cross case and learned that Justice Embry had expressed frustration with insurance companies. Justice Embry had also authored the opinion in Aetna’s case while the Blue Cross case was pending. Aetna moved for leave to file an application for rehearing. The state supreme court denied the motion. Blue Cross then settled its case with Justice Embry and paid him $30,000, which was deposited directly into his personal bank account. Aetna appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 222,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,100 briefs, keyed to 189 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.