Aetna Insurance, perhaps the US’s largest, and most profitable health insurer has the litigation manners of a whiney four-year old gone too long without a nap.

In essence, a Federal Judge, so to speak, last Tuesday March 7th, 2006 took them aside, pulled their pants down to their ankles, and whacked them solidly, and repeatedly, on their bare butt… Publicly..

Aetna, being sued by Cavitat Medical Technologies on several counts, has had a history, in this case, so far, of bad behavior you can read about in my earlier articles – including the sending of thugs to my home in a clear attempt to dissuade me from writing about them.

The Cavitat v. Aetna case is a “donneybrook” – a battle for supremacy. It is the first outright challenge, by the public, of “the decision process” Aetna insurance, and its affiliates, uses to determine exactly what health care offerings they will pay, or not pay, for. Cavitat, in essence, has accused Aetna, of using questionable standards, and dubious individuals (the “quackbusters”), to evaluate health care offerings – and is being very specific in those accusations. The case, if successful, will force Aetna to use standards more in line with the reality of health care – and Aetna is pulling out all of the stops to try and stop this attempt.

But Cavitat, last week, played a new card Aetna didn’t expect. They brought in well known California Litigator Carlos F. Negrete to take over as lead trial attorney – and Aetna started to seriously “whimper”… First they tried to block Negrete’s entry into the case – and that’s when the Judge yanked down their pants…

Tuesday – March 7th, 2006 Hearing – Denver Federal Court

Negrete ONE – Aetna – ZERO

Aetna insurance came to this hearing with more Motions than Mrs. Smith has in her chocolate chip cookies. I can’t imagine what Aetna’s legal bill is going to be from its battery of Attorneys. For this hearing alone, according to the hearing transcript:

JOHN B. SHELY, Attorney at Law, Andrews & Kurth, 4200 6 Chase Tower, 600 Travis, Houston, Texas, 77002 , appearing for the Defendant/Counterplaintiff. JAMES C. CRUMLISH III, Attorney at Law, Elliott Greenleaf & Sieszikowski PC, 1925 Harvest Drive, Suite 300, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, 19422 , appearing for the Defendant/Counterplaintiff. JOHN M. PALMERI and FRANZ HARDY, Attorneys at Law, White & Steele, P.C., 950 17th Street, Suite 2100, Denver, Colorado, 80202-2804, appearing for the Defendant/Counterplaintiff. Wendy Laurento, in-house counsel for law and regulatory affairs with Aetna Inc.

Negrete came by himself – and it soon became clear that he had them outnumbered. In essence, after the Judge whacked Aetna’s butt, she made them take their pile of “Motions,” and and dump them in the trash bin themselves. Her words, eyeball-to-eyeball, so-to-speak, with Aetna’s counsel, while they stood there, so-to-speak, with their pants down, were:

If anyone has an expectation that this case is going to be won or lost on motion practice or that the battles with regard to motion practice are going to be somehow determinative, I urge you to put aside that notion. The goal here is to have a full and fair opportunity for both parties to present evidence as to disputed facts and apply the law. I know that these two parties don’t like each other. It’s apparent. I also know that there are several ways to handle a lawsuit. Some people play hardball, some people play softball; but I will tell you right now that the goal here is to have a fair process. And I have very little tolerance for hyperbole, attacks between counsel, or unnecessary motion practice. So I urge you to get focused on what it is you need to try and let’s get on with it. Any need for clarification or further explanation?

Aetna, as you may have read in my earlier articles, made a counter-accusation earlier in the case, which, in essence, the Judge tossed out for lack of substance last month. It appears, from this hearing, and Aetna’s attorney’s behavior, that Aetna can’t seem to find a “defense” against Cavitat’s onslaught. – and needs to rely on tricks… Aetna’s Motions for this hearing, were, basically, a rehash of the counter-accusation they already had tossed out.

The trial starts in June, and the Judge said about that:

We invite jurors to give comments after every single trial; and you might well find those comments interesting, particularly the comments that have arisen from civil litigation. They will be apparent to you. They are comments like: “No more exhibits. Do the attorneys think we are dumb? Why do the attorneys put on repetitive evidence? Why couldn’t the parties settle this case?” These are the kinds of comments that jurors make. And I urge you to consider that as you start fine-tuning your presentation for trial. We are asking jurors to resolve this civil dispute; and jurors do not like, in my experience, to have their time wasted or their intelligence insulted, and they particularly are resistant to situations where they are asked to make a determination between parties where they believe that the parties could have resolved the case themselves.