Los Angeles–CA–Descendants of victims massacred in the Armenian Genocide of 1915 will share a multi-million dollar settlement in a class action lawsuit brought against New York Life Insurance Company for unpaid life insurance benefits–announced the class counsel for the plaintiffs. The class includes Armenia’s living in the United States and abroad who are descendants and heirs of policyholders who perished in the first Genocide of the twentieth century. Under the terms of the settlement–New York Life will pay a total of $20 million–which includes payment to policyholder heirs–and a minimum of $3 million to various Armenian charitable organizations.
Prior to 1915–New York Life sold life insurance policies to thousands of Armenia’s living in the Ottoman Empire; the policyholders were among the 1.5 million Armenia’s massacred during the Genocide. In the ensuing chaos–many of the rightful policy heirs were unable to obtain the insurance proceeds–while others were unaware that they were entitled to any insurance benefits. During the course of litigation–New York Life acknowledged its records–which indicated that an estimated 2,400 policies sold to Armenia’s prior to the Genocide may remain unpaid.
In November 1999–Martin Marootian–along with 12 other plaintiffs–filed Martin Marootian et al. v. New York Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles Federal District Court. The lawsuit asked that New York Life divulge the names of Armenia’s who purchased life insurance policies in the Ottoman Empire prior to the Genocide and to properly compensate the beneficiaries of those policies.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs and New York Life praised the efforts of Presiding Judge Christina Snyder and California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi for their assistance in fostering the dialogue that ultimately led to the final agreement.
Plaintiffs co-counsel Vartkes Yeghiayan of Yeghiayan & Associates–affirmed that "this lawsuit proves anew that the past is not dead and not even past. I know that this settlement will not bring back the life of even one Armenian child. But this settlement is important–because it symbolizes our resolve to achieve justice for our ancestors who were massacred in the Armenian Genocide."
"This settlement with New York Life is an important first step toward seeking financial recovery for the losses resulting from the Armenian Genocide," remarked plaintiffs co-counsel Mark J. Geragos. He added that "the settlement is fair and we are confident that the Court will approve it. We hope other companies will follow New York Life’s lead–step forward–and assist in restoring some of the losses incurred by the families of victims of this horrific crime against humanity."
"This settlement is the result of a very personal campaign to bring attention to the history of the Armenian Genocide," commented plaintiffs co-counsel Brian S. Kabateck of Kabateck & Garris. "As an Armenian American–I am proud of the hard work everyone involved dedicated to this excellent cause. Not only will the heirs receive payment–but the contributions to charitable organizations will help the needy," he continued.
Co-counsel William Shernoff of Shernoff–Bidart & Darras said–"The settlement of insurance claims from 1915 through this class action lawsuit is a marvelous display of how far the American Judicial System can reach in pursuit of justice."
Details of the settlement and the New York Life policies involved will soon be available at www.ArmenianInsuranceSettlement.com.
The following Armenian organizations will share equally in the $3 million fund:
Armenian Church of North America Eastern Diocese–New York–New York
Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church Eastern US and Canada–New York–New York
Armenian Church of North America Western Diocese–Burbank–California
Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Los Angeles–California
Armenian Apostolic Catholic Exarchate For Armenian Catholics in the US & Canada– New York–New York
Armenian Missionary Association of America–Inc.–Paramus–New Jersey
Armenian Relief Society–United States Chapter–Watertown–Massachusetts
Armenian General Benevolent Union–New York–New York
Armenian Educational Foundation–Glendale–California