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Judge Approves $20M Armenian Settlement

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  • Judge Approves $20M Armenian Settlement

    July 31, 2004
    Judge Approves $20M Armenian Settlement

    Filed at 6:11 a.m. ET

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A judge Friday formally approved a $20 million
    settlement in a class action lawsuit between New York Life Insurance
    Co. and the descendants of Armenians killed nearly 90 years ago in the
    Turkish Ottoman Empire.

    The landmark legal agreement approved by U.S. District Court Judge
    Christina A. Snyder is believed to be the first ever in connection
    with what Armenians say was genocide but that Turkey describes as
    civil unrest.

    Snyder granted preliminary approval for the unpaid death benefits
    earlier this year.

    ``As lawyers and descendants of victims of the genocide, we were able
    to bring to court a lawsuit that brings some recognition of the
    genocide,'' said attorney Brian S. Kabateck, who, like co-counsel Mark
    Geragos, is Armenian-American.

    One of the plaintiffs, 89-year-old Martin Marootian, will receive
    $250,000 stemming from his efforts to bring about the lawsuit. His
    mother first sought benefits in 1923 for Marootian's uncle, who bought
    a policy in 1910 and was killed in 1915.

    ``What it really is is an insurance case and not an Armenian genocide
    case, but the two are interwoven together,'' Marootian said Friday.

    Armenians have asserted that 1.5 million people were executed between
    1915 and 1923 by Turkish authorities who accused them of helping the
    invading Russian army during World War I. Turkey has rejected the
    genocide claim, saying Armenians were killed in civil unrest during
    the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

    New York Life sold about 8,000 policies in the Ottoman Empire
    beginning in the 1880s, with less than half of those bought by
    Armenians. It stopped selling insurance there in 1915.

    Many of the policies languished because remaining heirs could not be
    found, the firm said. The company has located about one-third of the
    policyholders' descendants to pay benefits.

    About $11 million will be set aside for potential claims by heirs of
    some 2,400 policyholders, $3 million will go to Armenian charities and
    the rest will pay attorneys' fees and administrative costs.

    France and Russia are among 15 countries that have recognized the
    genocide. The United States has not made such a declaration.

    Copyright 2004 The Associated Press