LOS ANGELES (AP)–A judge Friday formally approved a $20 million settlement in a class action lawsuit between New York Life Insurance Co. and the descendants of Armenia’s killed nearly 90 years ago in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
The landmark legal agreement approved by US District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder is believed to be the first ever in connection to the Armenian genocide.
Snyder granted preliminary approval for the unpaid death benefits earlier this year.
"As lawyers and descendants of victims of the genocide–we were able to bring to court a lawsuit that brings some recognition of the genocide,” said attorney Brian S. Kabateck–who–like co-counsel Mark Geragos–is Armenian-American.
One of the plaintiffs–89-year-old Martin Marootian–will receive $250,000 stemming from his efforts to bring about the lawsuit. His mother first sought benefits in 1923 for Marootian’s uncle–who bought a policy in 1910 and was killed in 1915.
"What it really is an insurance case and not an Armenian genocide case–but the two are interwoven together,” Marootian said Friday.
New York Life sold about 8,000 policies in the Ottoman Empire beginning in the 1880s–with less than half of those bought by Armenia’s. It stopped selling insurance there in 1915.
Many of the policies languished because remaining heirs could not be found–the firm said. The company has located about one-third of the policyholders’ descendants to pay benefits.
About $11 million will be set aside for potential claims by heirs of some 2,400 policyholders–$3 million will go to Armenian charities and the rest will pay attorneys’ fees and administrative costs.