CBS Engineer’s Autoerotic-Asphyxiation Death Sparks Suit

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — The wife of a CBS Sports engineer who died from autoerotic asphyxiation brought a federal complaint to fight denial of life insurance benefits.

Represented by attorney Chad Boonswang, the widowed Deborah Conradi filed her lawsuit on Nov. 24 with a federal judge in Philadelphia. Seeking $1.4 million in damages, Conradi accuses American International Group of bad-faith insurance practices. As to CBS — which hired Conradi’s husband, Lawrence LaFave, in 2013 — Conradi accuses the network of breaching its contractual obligations to provide a full and fair review of her claim.

On June 14, 2016 — two days before the start of the U.S. Open golf championships in Oakmont, Pennsylvania — 65-year-old LaFave was found dead in a closet at the Spring Hill Suites hotel room where he was staying on business.

LaFave “was found in a partial kneeling position hanging from a wire closet shelf in hotel room by a scarf,” the complaint states.

“One end of the scarf was tied around his neck with the other end tied to the wire closet shelf located directly above him,” the complaint continues. “Multiple other scarves were tied around his right lower extremity and scrotum. He was clothed in a slip, brassiere, women’s underwear, and pantyhose.”

Frazer Township police found more women’s underwear on the bed, across from an outfit that LaFave planned to wear to work that day, Conradi notes. A well-known figure in the sports and engineering industries, LaFave’s memorial service was streamed on CBS Sports.

Conradi notes that both the police and the medical examiner ruled her husband’s death an accident, and that LaFave’s insurance plan provided for an accidental-death benefit.

Invoking an exclusion for suicides or intentionally self-inflicted injuries, however, AIG told Conradi this past January that her husband’s actions carried the risk of death by hanging, meaning that his death did not qualify as unanticipated, as the policy required.

Conradi brought her suit after exhausting her administrative appeals.

She notes that her husband was set to make more than $200,000 in salary last year.

The complaint alleges violations of the Employment and Retirement Income Security Act.

Neither CBS and AIG has responded to emails or phone calls seeking comment.

The complaint notes that AIG wrote the insurance policy at issue on behalf of National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh.

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