The Saddest Story Ever Told

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A heartless insurer denied a claim from a 92-year-old, legless Holocaust survivor whose caregivers stole $145,000 worth of her stuff – including her legs, the woman claims in court.
     Erica Haines sued the Fire Insurance Exchange in Superior Court.
     Haines, of Palm Springs, claims in the lawsuit that the insurer denied her claim after she “was victimized by serial thievery of unscrupulous caregivers over a period of years. When she discovered her harm and submitted her claim to Fire Insurance Exchange, the carrier refused to pay, asserting that Erica could not prove that the thefts occurred.”
     Haines claims that in March she “noticed that several gold spoons from one of her sets were missing. She asked her caregiver, Alejandra, to bring her more pieces of silverware and flatware from her collection. Most pieces were missing.”
     Haines says in the lawsuit that she “escaped the Holocaust in her native Austria and made her way to America in the early years of WWII. She later lost both her legs to medical complications. Although strong of will, she lacks the physical capacity to wash and dress herself, move about her apartment and reach or even view the many objects that she has collected over the years.”
     Haines claims she bought her first insurance policy from Fire Insurance Exchange, part of the Farmers Group, in 1967 in Palm Springs and has “remained loyal to Farmers ever since.”
     When she realized her flatware was missing, Haines says, she and her caregiver “began to take stock of all the items in her apartment. The two put together an inventory of all the missing things, which included clothing, jewelry, artwork, antiques, heirlooms and a vast array of collectibles.”
     Haines reported the theft to the Palm Springs Police Department on March 15, and “contacted her Farmers agent, Nancy Breeden, who assisted Erica in completing a proof-of-loss form and submitting it to Farmers. The claim amounted to $145,000 in lost contents,” the complaint states.
     The proof-of-loss form states the missing items included “a spare pair of prosthetic legs, a set of hearing aids, canes, cameras, rare books, original paintings, cosmetics, clothing, medicine and Erica’s wedding ring,” the lawsuit states.
     The insurer never sent an adjuster to her home, and on May 28, “Farmers dispatched a letter to Erica denying her claim. The letter said that Farmers’ investigation had revealed that Erica failed to establish that any thefts occurred and that she had provided insufficient evidence proving the thefts,” according to the complaint.
     Haines seeks benefits under her policy, general and special damages, and treble damages for bad faith.
     She is represented by William Shernoff and Howard Shernoff with Shernoff Bidart Echeverria Bentley, of Claremont, Calif.

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