A settlement between Holocaust victims, their relatives and an Italian insurance company may be the only chance for some victims to recover money, a judge said, but he delayed ruling on approval of the deal.
U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels heard lawyers for six objectors say Wednesday the deal with Assicurazioni Generali would provide relief to as few as 5 percent of tens of thousands of victims while denying the others the chance to prove their cases in the years ahead.
Under the deal, Generali would accept new claims until March 31, even though it has already paid $135 million to settle claims. So far, more than 1,000 people have made fresh claims, which might entitle them to payouts under an international commission’s formula.
In a hearing that lasted more than two hours, Daniels said that in reaching a decision he has to decide whether the settlement was fair and reasonable while understanding that for some victims, “this may be their only chance at recovery.”
The judge noted the settlement resulted from a 1997 lawsuit that was thrown out by another judge.
Marco E. Schnabl, a lawyer for Generali, asked the judge at the end of the hearing for additional time to address some of the concerns raised by those objecting to the deal. The judge agreed to delay the case at least a week.
Samuel Dubbin, a lawyer for victims objecting to the plan, had argued that the deal would leave 95 percent of those cheated with no relief. The victims were denied the benefits of their insurance policies.
“Here, you’re sacrificing the rights of many to benefit the few,” Dubbin said.
Robert Swift, a lawyer for the victims who agree with the settlement, said a failure to approve the deal would result in years of litigation that would force each plaintiff to prove the facts of a case rather than resolving it in a “claimant friendly” environment.
“This settlement’s going to walk away,” he said, noting that further delay will cheat some victims of benefits while they are alive.
Swift said the settlement would end the last of the large cases brought in American courts to get money from companies responsible for aiding Nazis during the Holocaust. Those companies have been accused of enabling the cheating of Jews, forced laborers and slaves of their assets, including insurance policies, during World War II.
On the Net:
International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims: http://www.icheic.org
International Tracing Service: http://www.its-arolsen.org