Thursday, January 29, 2004
$20 Million Fund to Be Created to Settle Armenian Genocide Claims
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
As part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, New York Life Insurance Co. agreed to create a $20 million fund to pay claims by descendants of Armenian Genocide victims, lawyers said yesterday.
The class action was brought in 1999 by about 10,000 ethnic Armenians living in California whose relatives bought policies in the early part of the 20th century while living in what is now Turkey.
In the lawsuit, Martin Marootian, along with 12 other plaintiffs, asked that New York Life divulge the names of Armenians who purchased life insurance policies in the Ottoman Empire prior to the genocide and to properly compensate the beneficiaries of those policies.
The settlement also includes a minimum of $3 million to be paid by New York Life to various Armenian charitable groups.
New York Life sold life insurance policies to Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in the period prior to the Armenian Genocide, which began in 1915.
Because Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed or forced to flee, insurance policies and other important papers were lost or destroyed.
It is estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks and tens of thousands more were deported.
The lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles lawyers such as Mark Geragos and Armenian-American Brian S. Kabateck, alleged that New York Life refused to pay survivors and their heirs policy benefits.
“This settlement with New York Life is an important first step toward seeking financial recovery for the losses resulting from the Armenian Genocide,” Geragos said.
Kabateck said, “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.”
Plaintiff co-counsel Vartkes Yeghiayan said in a statement, “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.”
California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi praised New York Life for its “generosity” in resolving the case.
“After long negotiations, I have been able to secure a $20 million fund that will go to payment of those claims,” he said. “New York Life has been generous in its willingness to compromise in order to come to a complex...agreement that will make up for past delays and will benefit both the survivors of Armenian policyholders as well as the Armenian community.”
Outside of the Republic of Armenia, California is home to about 500,000 Armenians, the largest population of the ethnicity in the world, with Armenian concentrations in Glendale, Pasadena, Montebello and Hollywood, home of Little Armenia and its business district.
Garamendi said potential claimants will be informed by a court-approved notice, or they can call (800) 927-4537 for information.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company