Prather v. Sun Life & Health Insurance Co., No. 16-1861 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Prather, age 31, tore his left Achilles tendon playing basketball. He scheduled surgery for July 22. On July 21, he called the surgeon’s office complaining of swelling and that an area of the left calf was sensitive and warm to the touch. The surgery was uneventful and he was discharged from the hospital the same day. He returned to work and was doing well in a follow-up visit to his surgeon on August 2. Four days later he collapsed, went into cardiopulmonary arrest, and died as a result of a blood clot in the injured leg that had traveled to a lung. Prather’s widow applied for benefits under his Sun Life group life insurance policy (29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)), which limited coverage to “bodily injuries ... that result directly from an accident and independently of all other causes.” The district court granted Sun Life summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are risks of surgery, but that even with conservative treatment, such as immobilization of the affected limb, the insured had an enhanced risk of a blood clot. The forensic pathologist who conducted a post-mortem examination of Prather did not attribute his death to the surgery.