NY Life Insurance Agrees in Principle to Settlement on Armenian Policy Holders

LOS ANGELES–On Wednesday–April 11–both the New York Life Insurance Company and the Law Offices of Quisenberry & Kabateck issued separate press releases regarding an agreement in principle which was reached in a class-action law suit on behalf of the heirs of the Armenian Genocide for unpaid life insurance benefits against New York Life.

The Los Angeles-based law firm of Quisenberry & Kabateck was hired by Armenian-American attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan–who represents a group of heirs of Armenia’s who owned life insurance policies in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) during the period of the Armenian Genocide. The lawsuit was originally filed in November 1999 in the federal court in Los Angeles.

As part of the settlement–New York Life has agreed to contribute a minimum of $7 million to the heirs of policyholders–along with $3 million which will go to Armenian civic organizations.

New York Life’s press release claims the company has informed a federal court in Los Angeles that it is withdrawing a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit. This step was taken by New York Life in light of the settlement that was reached with the law offices of Quisenberry & Kabateck–which in turn had dropped a class action lawsuit.

According to the release issued by the law firm–New York Life will pay class members 10 times the face-value amount of the policy on valid claims made to the company. Because Armenia’s were killed or forced to flee their homes during the Genocide–life insurance policies–and other important papers were lost or destroyed.

"As part of the settlement–New York Life will publish a list of names of families who purchased life insurance in Turkey during the time prior to the Genocide," said Brian Kabateck–lead attorney for the class and partner with the law firm of Quisenberry & Kabateck. "Now–heirs of those policyholders will be able to file claims and New York Life will pay these claims with interest," added Kabateck.

New York Life–in 1915–had approximately 7,000 life insurance policy holders in the Ottoman Empire–of which close to 2,400 cases remain unsolved. Half of these cases are presumably Armenian policyholders–while the rest were purchased by Greeks–Jews–Assyrians–and Turks.

Attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan told Asbarez on Monday that he does not approve of such a settlement–and that his clients also oppose the proposed solution. Yeghiayan also added that he was displeased with New York Life’s press release. However–Yeghiayan’s law firm’s (Quisenberry & Kabateck) press release–which was issued the following day–confirmed the agreement in principle that was reached with New York Life.

Asbarez was unable to get a hold of Yeghiayan for a second time–since he is currently out of the country. His return will undoubtedly give us a final assessment of the situation.

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