The Daily Oklahoman
January 29, 2008
By Don Mecoy
Imprisoned former state Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 40 times during a civil trial Monday in federal court to avoid answering questions about his relationship with American Fidelity Assurance Co.
“I respectfully decline to answer that question, sir,” Fisher said repeatedly, claiming his constitutional right to avoid incriminating himself. Fisher was subpoenaed to testify in a trial prompted by an Oklahoma City woman’s lawsuit challenging American Fidelity’s payments for a cancer policy purchased by her late son.
Fisher’s attorney failed to quash the subpoena, and defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Fisher’s unresponsive testimony would be irrelevant.
Fisher, citing the Fifth Amendment, refused to answer questions about the lawsuit or American Fidelity during a sworn deposition in April.
Fisher was insurance commissioner nearly six years before resigning in September 2004. He was sentenced to a three-year prison term after his conviction for embezzling $1,000 of his state campaign funds and lying on a contributions report.
Fisher, dressed in dark gray pants and a light gray shirt, was accompanied by a federal marshal when he arrived in court. Fisher swore an oath, identified himself and then refused to answer any questions during his 20 minutes on the witness stand.
American Fidelity spokesman Brent Gooden declined to comment on the case, citing an order from U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange who is presiding over the civil trial.
Plaintiff’s attorney Tony Gould asked Fisher why he wrote a letter challenging American Fidelity’s new policy regarding “actual damages” soon after taking office, but later issued a letter approving the change. Gould asked Fisher if he accepted “any money or form of inducement in exchange for writing” the second letter.
Fisher refused to answer the questions.
Defense attorneys, through their questioning, noted that as many as 100 individuals and companies contributed to a Fisher fundraiser.
Fisher also declined to answer defense questions.
Dolores Metzger’s lawsuit against American Fidelity claims company directors changed the company’s policy in 1994 on how it pays for claims on limited benefit health insurance policies, such as the cancer policy purchased by Metzger’s son.
Metzger was the beneficiary of the cancer policy.
Before the change, the company paid whatever the patient was billed, the lawsuit states. After the change, the company issued benefits based on the often discounted amounts that health care providers charged insurance companies, the lawsuit claims.
Michael Metzger bought a cancer benefit policy from American Fidelity in 1992.
He was diagnosed with cancer in November 2004 and died Jan. 4, 2005.
The company, in its filing, admits that before 1994 it paid certain covered claims based upon a provider’s original billed charge without consideration of discounts. American Fidelity also agrees that since 1994, it has paid actual charges benefits on its cancer policies based on the amount a provider accepts as full payment.
But American Fidelity in its filing denies the lawsuit’s characterizations that it violated Oklahoma law or public policy or that it acted in bad faith.