Holocaust insurance bill awaits Wilson OK

For decades, European insurance companies have stonewalled efforts to obtain the proceeds on the life and property policies held by Holocaust victims. The companies have refused to honor the claims outright and, in some cases, have made demands of survivors and heirs that are impossible to meet. For example, insurers have required death certificates, but these were not issued at concentration camps. And they have requested proof of the written insurance policy, though such documentation was destroyed during the war.

One claim, brought by the Stern family of Los Angeles, has gone to litigation. The defendant, Generali insurance company of Italy, is expected to seek a dismissal of the case this month on procedural grounds. AB 1334 seeks to address the procedural hurdles, in an attempt to put the Stern family case and others like it before the courts.

Generali and other insurance companies will likely argue that the statute of limitations on the claim has expired, and that the suit must be brought in the country in which the company is headquartered. AB 1334 addresses these issues by extending the statute of limitations on the claims until the year 2010, and clarifies that California Superior Court is an appropriate venue for these cases.

"The looting of the families of Holocaust victims must end. The insurance companies that wrote policies 50 years ago for persons who perished in the Holocaust must honor the claims," Knox said.

The attorney for the Stern family, Lisa Stern, estimates that several hundred families in California may be entitled to payment on policies of Holocaust victims.

California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush is currently heading an interstate task force to examine the records of European insurance firms — including Generali — which are alleged to have reneged on Holocaust claims.