News Brief

Wills Proves Death Was Faked, Obtain Affirmation of Summary Judgment

October 11, 2017

Linda Wills (Partner-Houston) obtained a Fifth Circuit judgment affirming summary judgment in favor of a major insurance company after proving that the insured had faked his own death in Nigeria. After an investigation cast doubt on whether any accident had occurred, the insurer denied coverage. The plaintiff − the alleged “brother” of the alleged deceased − filed suit in District Court alleging breach of contract, unfair settlement practices, and other violations of the Texas Insurance Code and common law. Linda submitted evidence that the plaintiff had changed his name from that of the insured to that of the beneficiary and that the purported sole witness to the “accident” had formed a business with the insured 10 years prior. After the plaintiff failed to have the evidence stricken, the court held “there is no question of material fact that the insured is alive,” and granted summary judgment that no accidental death benefits were owed. On appeal, a panel of the Fifth Circuit held that Linda and Marjorie’s evidence was “highly relevant because it addresses a fact of enormous consequence in the litigation: whether the insured is alive or dead.” Because the insured had failed to present credible evidence to substantiate his claims, summary judgment in favor of the insurer was upheld. The Texas Attorney General has indicted the plaintiff for insurance fraud based on the evidence provided, but has been unable to locate him to date in order to arrest him.

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