Jennifer Latham: Saga of $37 million verdict featured in alt-weekly anthology

Some stories are worth revisiting -- not just for the writing, although we like to think we do a good job on that, but for the people whose remarkable efforts and sacrifices make them worth writing about. And that's why I'm particularly pleased to offer a shameless plug for a free ebook available to all you long-form journalism fans out there, Best Alternative Longform Journalism, which can be downloaded directly to your Kindle or Nook from our friends at

Every year, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia recognizes the best work from alt-weeklies around the country in areas such as feature writing, arts reporting and long-form news. Several of those award winners have been compiled in this anthology, ranging from Westword contributor Caleb Hannan's piece on a relentless sexual predator for the Seattle Weekly to the tale of an insanely successful hip-hop artist who spent and snorted his way to the poorhouse, courtesy of Gus Garcia-Roberts at Miami New Times, a sister paper of Westword.

Westword's contribution to this storyfest is "You're in Bad Hands," my 2010 feature about Jennifer Latham, a woman who sued her health care insuror for outrageous bad faith -- and won a $37 million verdict from a Boulder jury, one of the largest punitive awards in state history.

Latham is a courageous woman. She and her husband were driving to the grocery store when they were T-boned by a meth dealer fleeing police, a devastating crash that left her struggling with a traumatic brain injury. But that was only the beginning of the ordeal. Her insurance company, Assurant Health, tried to rescind her coverage on a technicality, threatened to drop her kids from coverage if she didn't back down, and treated her as if she were trying to defraud them. Although barely scraping by on Social Security payments, she turned down a million-dollar settlement offer on the eve of trial because, she told me, she wanted to "be the change" she wanted to see in the world. The trial ended up being the kind of triumph of the underdog you rarely see outside of a Frank Capra movie.

Our account of Latham's battle drew national attention and won a laurel from the Columbia Journalism Review, as well as an award for long-form news writing from AAN. But the best award of all is its appearance in this anthology, which gives far-flung readers an opportunity to discover Latham's story for themselves, as well as many other important journalistic forays you won't find in the daily press or the nightly news.

Enjoy. Please.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Jurors explain stunning $37 million verdict against Assurant Health."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

Latest Stories