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CONSUMERS: 1999 PRESS RELEASE

For Release: January 27, 1999
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER QUACKENBUSH LAUDS COURT DECISION AS ANOTHER VICTORY FOR HOLOCAUST VICTIMS AND THEIR HEIRS

LOS ANGELES -- Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush today applauded a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling announced Monday, which achieves another victory in the ongoing battle to attain full restitution for Holocaust victims and their heirs.

The January 25, 1999 decision denied a motion by Assicurazioni Generali to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Holocaust survivors and their families. The plaintiffs, members of the Stern family, are seeking recovery of life insurance benefits from Generali, a world-wide insurance company licensed to sell insurance in California that has refused to pay on policies previously issued to Holocaust victims. Generali was attempting to either dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction or have it transferred to the Czech Republic.

"We are gratified by the Court's decision to move this case forward in California, where thousands of Holocaust survivors reside," said Commissioner Quackenbush. "The refusal by Generali and other carriers to pay these claims reflects a massive historical and ongoing injustice, and this Department, together with many other groups, is committed to correcting that injustice."

Commissioner Quackenbush has been active in advocating the prompt and full payment of Holocaust insurance claims and submitted a brief supporting California's jurisdiction to hear the case. The court cited a new law authored by California State Assemblyman Wally Knox (AB1334) in finding that California had jurisdiction in this case.

Also encouraged by the Superior Court ruling was Rabbi Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "The Simon Wiesenthal Center is very pleased with this decision," said Rabbi Cooper. "It is our hope that it will serve as a wake-up call for all European insurance companies, and that they will finally do the right thing."

Frank Kaplan, the Insurance Commissioner's counsel, noted, "Generali's motion is yet another attempt to avoid the merits of the claims against it. As the Court found, this case belongs in California."

Commissioner Quackenbush has led the effort on several fronts to ensure that Holocaust-era insurance policies are re-opened and settled by companies. Pursuant to legislation authored by State Senator Tom Hayden (SB 1530), he has coordinated California's work to collect data and set up a registry so that restitution on Holocaust-era claims can be made promptly, accurately and fully. Commissioner Quackenbush pledged in his 1999 Inaugural address to pursue additional funding from the California Legislature to fully implement SB 1530.

Commissioner Quackenbush is also a member of the International Holocaust Commission. He is the chair of the Commission's audit committee, which has authority to review insurance company records and ultimately establish the level of restitution that companies must provide to victims. Through the International Commission, a $90 million floor on potential payments has been established -- with an understanding that the final restitution level is very likely to be significantly larger. The Commission's work has been sanctioned by 44 countries.

"National and international consensus is rare," said Quackenbush. "Even more rare are the times when something so right is so clear. Rarely in life do we have a chance to participate in work that is so singularly important. On this issue, I have that chance. And it is with a deep sense of purpose and commitment that I will continue to move with maximum speed to complete our work -- work that when brought to fruition will again affirm our shared humanity and the enduring power to do what is right to balance the scales justice."

 

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