April 21 (Westlaw Journals) - A Los Angeles massage therapist who was accused by a patient of negligence and sexual misconduct has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging that his insurance company wrongfully denied coverage for the patient's claims.
The complaint, filed by Luiz Baek in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses Allied Professionals Insurance Co. of breach of contract, bad faith and fraud.
The action stems from a massage that Baek gave to a patient, Jaime Weinberg, at the Heaven Massage & Wellness Center in Sherman Oaks in January 2010.
Four months later Weinberg sued Baek for sexual harassment, sexual battery, false imprisonment, negligence and other claims, according to Baek’s complaint.
Allied Professionals refused to defend or indemnify Baek in the lawsuit, saying Weinberg’s claims arose from alleged sexual acts and thus did not fall within his policy’s “professional services” coverage, Baek’s complaint says.
He alleges Allied improperly relied on Weinberg’s “mere allegations” of sexual misconduct as its purported basis for denying coverage.
Baek accuses the insurer of breaching the policy and acting in bad faith by allegedly failing to promptly investigate the claims “to avoid unfairly denying” him benefits.
Baek filed the lawsuit as a class action, proposing to represent massage therapists who were denied coverage by Allied for claims against them of “negligence and/or mere allegations of sexual misconduct allegedly made during the provision of lawful massage services.”
He asserts the class is “sufficiently large and diverse in geographic location,” and the damage to each member relatively small, making it “impracticable” and “economically infeasible” to proceed against the insurer other than by a class action.
The complaint also names as a defendant the American Massage Council, which allegedly had referred Baek to Allied.
Baek says he purchased the Allied policy based on the council’s claims that “[w]ith more than 50 years of combined experience in massage therapy defense, massage therapy practice management, massage therapy ethics and risk management, we will be there when you need us.”
The council’s representations were false and constituted fraud, the complaint alleges.
Baek seeks reimbursement of economic losses, punitive damages, attorney fees and other relief.
Baek v. Allied Professionals Insurance Co. et al., No. BC457910, complaint filed (Cal. Super. Ct., L.A. County Mar. 22, 2011).