Florida's senior U.S. Senator introduced the "Restoration of Legal Rights for Claimants under Holocaust-Era Insurance Policies Act of 2011" last week, answering the call of survivors groups all over the country. As noted previously in our blog, Holocaust survivors, their families and the families of victims of the Holocaust have long sought payment on life insurance policies purchased during the war. They claim insurers have failed to live up to their obligations by delaying or denying claims.
The proposed law would address many of the insurers' arguments that these claims should not be paid. By wiping the slate clean of prior claims and litigation, even a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the bill would allow these claims to move forward, step by step.
The bill calls for disclosure of information about Holocaust-era insurance policies regardless of the Supreme Court holding in American Insurance Association v. Garamendi. The Court denied the insured access to the records because of foreign policy considerations. The decision superseded state laws that allowed access.
Without the information that this law would make available, beneficiaries cannot know if they are beneficiaries or hold any rights at all under the policies. It's a necessary first step to recovering benefits delayed or denied by the companies.
The bill lifts another Garamendi barrier by allowing beneficiaries of the policies in question to sue insurance companies in U.S. courts. Further, it would allow beneficiaries to sue even if they had failed in earlier actions because of the Garamendi foreign policy defense. This is the second step.
Statute of limitations
Beneficiaries have time and time again been faced with statute of limitations issues. Insurance companies have claimed that these suits are barred because the filing deadline is long past. The bill would restart the clock for the claimants, allowing 10 years from the date the law becomes effective to file suit. This is the final step.
In our next post, we'll recap definitions and some interesting language in the bill.
Source: U.S. Senate Bill 466, Restoration of Legal Rights for Claimants under Holocaust-Era Insurance Policies Act of 2011, as introduced 3/2/11