CHARLESTON – West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue, the administrator of the state’s Unclaimed Property program, is reacting after a positive decision from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals regarding a lawsuit involving 63 life insurance companies.
In a unanimous ruling, the Court determined that under the West Virginia Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, the obligation to pay for a life insurance policy is triggered by the death of the insured, rather than the filing of a claim.
The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed a circuit court’s 2013 dismissal of 63 complaints brought by the Treasurer against various life insurance companies.
Treasurer Perdue released the following statement in reaction to the decision:
“I commend the justices of our state’s highest court for siding with the people of West Virginia by clarifying that insurance companies, like all companies, must adhere to unclaimed property laws.
“For years insurance companies argued they were exempt from the law and had no duty to turn over certain types of unclaimed property in a timely manner. I have stood up against them to say this is simply not the case, and now the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals affirms this position.
“As Justice Ketchum wrote in his concurring opinion, ‘It is estimated that there is over one billion dollars in death benefits held by insurance companies that are unclaimed by the beneficiaries of deceased policy holders.’
“This decision doesn’t just affect West Virginians. It could have implications for unclaimed property holders throughout the country.
“As the custodian of West Virginia’s unclaimed property, it is my duty to see that the people of our state are returned all money due to them, including unpaid life insurance policies. I believe this Supreme Court ruling is a victory for all West Virginians.”
The W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals opinion written by Justice Brent Benjamin and delivered on June 16, 2015 may be read here: http://www.courtswv.gov/supreme-court/docs/spring2015/14-0100.pdf.
A concurring opinion filed by Justice Menis Ketchum may be found here: http://www.courtswv.gov/supreme-court/docs/spring2015/14-0100c-ketchum.pdf.
Treasurer Perdue filed the appeal with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in May 2014, after the 2013 circuit court dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Perdue in September 2012 against the insurance companies.