by Geoff Rushton
Former Penn State Linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against an insurer he says has not honored a disability policy he took out in the event he was injured during the 2016 season.
Wartman-White suffered a season-ending ACL tear during Penn State’s week three game against Temple on Sept. 17, a year after sustaining an ACL tear, also against Temple, that ended his 2015 season. He had taken out a loss of value and permanent disability policy with International Specialty Insurance, a North Carolina-based underwriter for Lloyd’s of London, to mitigate any loss of potential income from an NFL career if he were injured. The policy was effective from Aug. 9, 2016 through Aug. 1, 2017.
But Wartman-White says that after he was injured he twice contacted International — once on Nov. 18 and again on Feb. 14 — about a disability claim and requesting policy documents and an application. He says he did not receive any response.
Wartman-White filed a lawsuit in U.S. Middle District Court on Thursday claiming breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and bad faith denial of insurance benefits. He is seeking at least $1.5 million, the total value of the policy, in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages and legal fees.
The benefits in the policy are $500,000 for loss of value and $1 million for permanent disability, meaning that due to injury he is unable to pursue his intended occupation.
In the complaint, his attorney, Jeff Gutkowski, wrote that Wartman-White passed on entry in the 2016 draft and expected he would be an early round prospect in the 2017 draft. As is common among players who choose to return to school instead of entering the draft, he purchased the insurance policy.
But after his injury in September, Wartman-White could not participate in the NFL Combine or Penn State’s Pro Day. He was not taken in the NFL Draft and has not been signed as an undrafted free agent.
Before applying for a policy last year, Wartman-White was solicited by International for the purpose of selling him the disability insurance, Gutkowski wrote.
The claims allege that International wrongfully denied his claim for benefits, failed to promptly and fully investigate the claim, failed to provide documents he requested, purported to impose conditions not required by the policy and impaired his rights. His attorney wrote that Wartman-White met all the obligations and conditions of the contract.
Wartman-White changed his last name from Wartman in 2015, but is named as Wartman in the complaint.
“Wartman was damaged by International’s withholding of benefits,” Gutkowski wrote. “Wartman seeks damages, including punitive damages, resulting from International’s unreasonable, malicious, oppressive, fraudulent, and deliberate withholding of benefits under the Disability Policy.