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Insurance Companies

era@ncar.UCAR.EDU (Ed Arnold)
(maybe, true)

Those of you who are not employed by insurance companies, may find the
following amusing.  It appeared in an issue of the Colorado Bar Journal,
and is posted with permission of the author.
by Christopher R. Brauchli

But if the while I think
on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.
Shakespeare, Sonnet 30
(Not written to an insurance company.)

Last year closed out with good news for your friend and mine, THE
INSURANCE COMPANY.  Until recently, all we heard was the sound made by
companies being crunched by devastating lawsuits brought by injured
persons aided by my avaricious colleagues.

So upset was one company that it began paying for advertisements in
newspapers around the country to marshal opposition to what it called
"lawsuit abuse."  Although not stated in the ad I saw, implicit was
the notion that, if we would quit dreaming up lawsuits, people and
insurance companies would be better off.  As a result of a recent
court decision, one kind of case will no longer cost the insurance
company any money.  That will make the insurance companies very happy.

Before I tell you about that case, however, let me tell you about
something else that makes insurance companies very happy - income
taxes.*1  I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking that if income
taxes make insurance companies happy, it must be because they earn the
same amount of money your Aunt Minnibelle earns, and she likes income
taxes because she never has to pay them.  If you think that, consider

In 1986, fifteen insurance companies paid no federal income taxes.
Nonetheless, among the fifteen, the one with the lowest net income
(Ohio Casualty Insurance) had a net income of more than $139 million
and the one with the highest net income (State Farm) had a net income
in excess of $1.6 billion.  In 1987, State Farm's net income jumped by
an additional billion and it paid a half million in federal taxes.
Your Aunt Minnibelle would be tickled pink if she had that kind of
income and those kinds of taxes.  So, for that matter, would I.

But I digress.  Here is what was added to the insurance companies'
federal income taxes to bring them joy during the recent holiday
season - Andino v. Dupont Plaza Hotel.  Not being a reported
case, this is probably one of the few places you can read about it.
It is nonetheless of some significance, since it establishes
conclusively that there is at least one area of the law that is not

Juanita Andino was injured in the 1986 fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel
that killed ninety-seven people.  A suit was brought against the hotel
on account of her injuries.  One of the plaintiffs (if not the only one)
was Juanita's husband, Valeriano.

The complaint alleged that as a result of injuries Juanita sustained in
the fire, she was "unable to perform her duties as a spouse."  In
addition it was alleged that Valeriano had suffered a loss of income to
the marital partnership because of Juanita's lost earnings.  Here is
why the insurance companies are happy.

The judge threw the lawsuit out and fined each of the lawyers who
brought the lawsuit $5,000.*2  He did that because Mr. Andino, who the
lawsuit alleged suffered from his wife's inability to perform her
duties as a spouse and suffered loss of income to the marital
partnership, was dead.  Not only was he dead, he had been dead for 12
years before the fire occurred.  The judge ruled that, in order to
recover damages for an injury, the plaintiff must be alive at the time
of the injury is alleged to have occurred.  Imagine that!

Now, in addition to the pleasure they receive from tax laws, which are
kinder to them than to you and me, insurance companies need no longer
live in fear that the graveyard is the home of potential plaintiffs.
The Andino case stands for the proposition that people who lie
moldering in graves may, in some parts of this country, still exercise
the right to vote.  They do not as they lie in repose, however, have
standing to sue.*3


*1      For this bit of information I am indebted to John Salmon, who
	published it in ads in the Denver media.  He thought the public
	should be aware of the full extent of hardships suffered by
	insurance companies.
*2      One of the lawyers was Melvin Belli.  He is fondly remembered
	in Colorado for his kind remarks about the Colorado Trial Lawyers'
	Association.  He made those remarks after leaders of CTLA
	suggested that Belli's trip to Bhopal, India, to represent
	what, when he left, were best described as "Unknown Plaintiffs,"
	was not, ostensibly, propelled by eleemosynary engines.
*3	Contrary to the opinion of some wag I know, this case does not
	stand for the proposition that the object of a necrophiliac's
	attention cannot recover damages if a necrophiliac sustains
	injuries.  This case has nothing to do with necrophilia.  It has
	to do with sloppy lawyering.
Ed Arnold * NCAR (Nat'l Center for Atmospheric Research) * Mesa Lab

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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