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Exploding corpses, Death Master File: The more things change…

Mon Sep 8th, 2014 on     Insurance Claims,    

We thought we would take a post or two to check in on some unfinished business. A friend recently asked about the case of the exploding corpse — cue Nancy Drew! — and, when Congress went back to work, we wondered what had happened with the proposed rules regarding access to the Social Security “death master file.” So here we go.

In May, we posted about a woman’s fight with her property insurance company over damage to her condominium (“So when you say ‘explosion,’ what exactly does that mean?“). Her neighbor had died, and it took a few weeks to discover the body. Decomposition was fairly far along by that time, and the bodily fluids had seeped into the walls. The smell was apparently overpowering and particularly resistant to remediation efforts.

The Florida condo owner filed a claim, and the insurance company denied coverage. An exploding corpse was not a “named peril,” the company said. In the lawsuit that followed, the condo owner argued that an explosion is an explosion, and that body exploded. She did not convince the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The court still disagrees, in fact. During the last weeks of August, the court refused the condo owner’s request to reexamine its opinion. There has been no mention of the case going to the Florida Supreme Court.

We have discussed the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File a number of times, particularly with regard to life insurance companies. As you may recall, Florida played a major role in changing life insurers’ use of the DMF. The companies had not been checking their lists of insureds against the DMF often enough, so benefits went unpaid — until Florida and other states demanded more accountability and better processes.

Earlier this year, though, it looked as if the federal government would be limiting access to the death records. We’ll talk about what happened in our next post.

Source: CBS Local, “Damage from exploding corpse not covered on Jupiter woman’s State Farm insurance, court finds,” Marc Freeman (Sun Sentinel), Aug. 20, 2014

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