Judge Approves $20M Armenian Settlement

July 31, 2004
Judge Approves $20M Armenian Settlement

Filed at 6:11 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge Friday formally approved a $20 million
settlement in a class action lawsuit between New York Life Insurance
Co. and the descendants of Armenians killed nearly 90 years ago in the
Turkish Ottoman Empire.

The landmark legal agreement approved by U.S. District Court Judge
Christina A. Snyder is believed to be the first ever in connection
with what Armenians say was genocide but that Turkey describes as
civil unrest.

Snyder granted preliminary approval for the unpaid death benefits
earlier this year.

“As lawyers and descendants of victims of the genocide, we were able
to bring to court a lawsuit that brings some recognition of the
genocide,” said attorney Brian S. Kabateck, who, like co-counsel Mark
Geragos, is Armenian-American.

One of the plaintiffs, 89-year-old Martin Marootian, will receive
$250,000 stemming from his efforts to bring about the lawsuit. His
mother first sought benefits in 1923 for Marootian’s uncle, who bought
a policy in 1910 and was killed in 1915.

“What it really is is an insurance case and not an Armenian genocide
case, but the two are interwoven together,” Marootian said Friday.

Armenians have asserted that 1.5 million people were executed between
1915 and 1923 by Turkish authorities who accused them of helping the
invading Russian army during World War I. Turkey has rejected the
genocide claim, saying Armenians were killed in civil unrest during
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

New York Life sold about 8,000 policies in the Ottoman Empire
beginning in the 1880s, with less than half of those bought by
Armenians. It stopped selling insurance there in 1915.

Many of the policies languished because remaining heirs could not be
found, the firm said. The company has located about one-third of the
policyholders’ descendants to pay benefits.

About $11 million will be set aside for potential claims by heirs of
some 2,400 policyholders, $3 million will go to Armenian charities and
the rest will pay attorneys’ fees and administrative costs.

France and Russia are among 15 countries that have recognized the
genocide. The United States has not made such a declaration.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press