Understanding the Importance of Feingold v. John Hancock Life Insurance Company

Please see the below for an interesting article titled ‘Win for Life Insurer in Unclaimed Property Arena” which discusses Feingold v. John Hancock Life Insurance Co., No. 13-10185 (D. Mass.). This article opens by noting the scrutiny that has recently been given to the insurance industry’s asymmetric use of the death master file and goes on to discuss the dismissal of Richard Feingold’s complaint claiming that “John Hancock regularly uses this database to determine when it may stop paying death benefits but never to determine whether to start.”  As a disclaimer, I am not an attorney so please weigh my thoughts accordingly.

Of particular interest, is this case initially seemed like an insurer victory against the asymmetrical use claims that are so foundational to the various Global Resolution Agreements, and some are reading the decision in this manner.   However, upon closer inspection, the court’s actual findings showed that some of Feingold’s key assertions were not germane to the claims.  Therefore, the dismissal of Feingold’s claims is most directly connected to the court’s position on jurisdictional issues and to its finding that “John Hancock’s practice of requiring the life insurance policy beneficiary to submit proof of death before payment comports with both Massachusetts and Illinois law.”  Accordingly, this case needs to be viewed as limiting the claims of individuals against life insurers. It does not address the issue of whether the states, in performing unclaimed property audits and utilizing the Death Master File, are exceeding their authority as regulators.

While still an important ruling that is favorable to the insurance industry, it does not seem to represent the panacea that some would have hoped.


About Tom Berger

Thomas Berger is Chief Executive Officer of Cross Country Computer. Tom joined Cross Country in 1991 and acquired the company in 1996. During his tenure, Tom has overseen the debt-free growth of CCC and has been instrumental in strengthening the company’s infrastructure while simultaneously developing new services and diversifying into new business lines. Tom has personally developed the vision and design specifications for many of Cross Country’s systems, including TBeaut and CBeaut, our proprietary title and company name standardization products. In addition, Tom holds the patent for our Abandoned Property Escheat Assignment & Reporting System (APEARS™). Tom has served two terms as Treasurer of the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization (UPPO) as well as two years as Secretary of the Unclaimed Property Committee within the Securities Transfer Association. He assisted in the creation of a white paper designed to educate the holder community about unclaimed property review and reporting practices. Tom has spoken frequently at Unclaimed Property conferences and was honored with the 2005 Unclaimed Property Holders Liaison Council’s (UPHLC) President’s Award. Tom is also an active member in numerous direct marketing related organizations including the Direct Marketing Association of Long Island, where, in 2012, he was selected as one of three inductees into the DMALI Hall of Fame. He is also a lifetime member of MENSA, the international High IQ society. Tom holds a BS degree in Management and Marketing from the Rochester Institute of Technology and has received military security clearance to oversee our government accounts.
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