European Insurer Hit with Lawsuit Regarding Holocaust Claims

May 22, 2001

A lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of an 89-year-old Holocaust-era survivor, Felicia Spirer Haberfeld of Los Angeles, alleges that the European insurer Assicurazioni Generali is sending Holocaust survivors and their heirs residing in California a voluntary payment form letter which intentionally attempts to mislead recipients into relinquishing the right to file lawsuits against the insurer under California’s Holocaust Victims Insurance Act.

According to attorneys for Haberfeld, the plaintiffs husband purchased several policies from General before the start of Woeld War II, during which Haberfeld’s daughter, parents and brother were killed in Nazi concentration camps. Haberfeld’s attorneys maintain that attempts to collect benefits from those Allianz policies have been attempted by the family since 1957.

The suit seeks class action status; to make public the settlements of similar lawsuits; to void any settlements induced by Generali’s form letters; and to prevent Generali from sending out such letters in the future.

According to one of Haberfeld’s lawyers, William M. Shernoff, in its letter Generali offered Haberfeld $500 for claims on her husband’s and daughter’s policies. It was noted that a New York Times article in 1999 revealed that Generali had settled another Holocaust-era policy claim for $1.2 million.

Haberfeld’s attorneys further claim that whereas Generali’s form letters imply it is acting on behalf of the International Commission of Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), that commission actually a private consortium with no official standing, which is funded by five major European insurers, Allianz, Axa, Generali, Winterhur, and Zurich.

Other allegations contained in the lawsuit are the ICHEIC has spent $30 million on expenses but has paid out only $3 million to survivors.

Generali’s lead counsel. Peter Simshauser stated that Generali had no comment on the complaint at this time.

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