Calif. Holocaust Survivors Seek Class Action Status of Lawsuit

July 9, 2004

Roman Rakover, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, believes he is the sole beneficiary of two life insurance policies taken out by his father around 1930 in the amount of $20,000 each. He has a vivid memory of his father sending him every three months to hand deliver premium payments to Generali Life Insurance Company, a large European insurance company. Rakover testified that he saw “with his own eyes” the insurance policies in August of 1939 at a family meeting. After he filed a claim through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), he was asked for copies of the policies or the policy numbers.

“We were not allowed to carry papers to concentration camps. We didn’t have a pair of trousers with pockets, we only had old rags,” Rakover testified. Despite this compelling testimony to an ICHEIC appeals panel his claim was rejected because Generali could not find records of the insurance policies.

Today Rakover joins other Holocaust survivors in seeking class action status of a lawsuit against ICHEIC claiming the International Commission is bias in favor of Generali by allowing claims to be denied on grounds that are totally unfair and bias in favor of Generali.

“This is a perfect example of how the system is skewed against survivors,” said lead counsel William Shernoff, senior partner at the Claremont offices of Shernoff Bidart & Darras. “It’s not surprising since Generali gives money to ICHEIC for its operations and seems to be operating more as Generali’s claims department than an independent commission.”

According to Shernoff, the International Commission has come under heavy fire by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi. In a recent letter to ICHEIC, Garamendi said that changes must happen immediately to insure that justice is done. Garamendi has previously called for ICHEIC’s Chairman, former Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger to step down. Eagleburger’s salary of approximately $300,000 per year is paid by Generali and other European insurance carriers.

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