Can I sue a former employer for damages that said they would provide medical insurance, but didn’t?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I sue a former employer for damages that said they would provide medical insurance, but didn’t?

In August 2015 I accepted a job offer from a staffing company. I was a W-2
employee of theirs as a contractor for another company. The offer letter and
HR stated I would be eligible for health insurance. I didn’t purchase COBRA
from my previous position because of this. My wife gave birth in November
2015 and the hospital bill was close to 30,000. I looked into private insurance,
but existing pregnancy was not covered by any of the policies.

I talked to an attorney briefly in 2106 who said proving damages would be
difficult. They finally stated, in December 2016, after months of asking, that I
was not eligible as I wasn’t a ‘permanent’ employee. I would have bought
COBRA had I known the company wasn’t going to provide coverage.

Would I be likely to receive compensation if I sued or should I just keep paying
the 30,000?

Thank you

Asked on May 10, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Nebraska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You *might* have a claim if you have in writting that you would be offered health insurance; you may be able to show that you suffered your loss (the hospital bill) in reasonable reliance on their promise you'd have coverage.
What will hurt you is that she gave birth *four* months later. By then, you should have either been on their plan or obtaining other coverage, especially since you knew you'd need it (e.g. knew about the pregancy). The law requires people to themselves act reasonably to protect their interests: not taking any action for four months to make sure you have coverage when your wife is pregnant is not reasonable, and your own failure to act reasonably to ensure coverage could result in you not being able to receive compensation.
That said, given how much is at stake, it is likely worthwhile for you to sue for the $30,000 which should have covered by insurance, if you'd had it, based on the written representations that you'd be provided coverage. If the matter went to trial, while, as stated, there are significant weaknesses with the case, you could possibly win; and there is also a chance they will look to settle by paying at least part of the bills.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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