Policyholder Claims

In a case which eventually reached the Supreme Judicial Court, an aggrieved widow brought a multi-million dollar wrongful death complaint against a life insurance company for its alleged negligence in approving a forged change of beneficiary form submitted by her late husband’s partner under which the partner named himself as beneficiary of the life insurance benefits. After the beneficiary had been changed, the partner allegedly murdered the insured in order to obtain the life insurance proceeds. Lyne, Woodworth attorneys defended the life insurer in this unique case of first impression in Massachusetts. We successfully argued to the Supreme Judicial Court that the life insurer had not breached any duty of care to the insured in approving the forged change of beneficiary because it had done a reasonable investigation of the change of beneficiary form’s authenticity prior to approving it. The insurer had no knowledge, nor even any suspicion, that the form was a forgery, and therefore was simply not responsible for the unfortunate and sudden death of the insured. In the ever-widening area of insurance fraud, Lyne, Woodworth attorneys successfully pursued a counterclaim against a disability insurance claimant for over $200,000.00 of insurance benefits paid out on the basis of the claimant’s fraud. Pursuing a vigorous investigation of the claimant’s activities, which confirmed and supplemented the company’s own investigation, we were able to convince a Federal court jury that the claimant was not housebound by mental and emotional difficulties, but rather was leading a perfectly normal life with no apparent limitations. The evidence was sufficiently overwhelming to convince the jury that the insured was not entitled to any new benefits and was obligated to pay back all of the benefits received prior to the lawsuit. In addition, the insured’s policy was cancelled because of his fraud even though the policy was incontestable.