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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Widow Says Death Spurred Employer Profits

CHICAGO (CN) - After her husband died, Bristol-Myers Squibb slipped up and accidentally informed his widow that it had taken out a $6 million life insurance policy on the rank-and-file worker, without an insurable interest in him and without telling him or his family about it, the widow claims in court.

Gigi Simmons, administrator of her late husband's estate, filed a class action against Bristol-Myers Squibb and an "as-yet unknown insurance company," in Federal Court.

After Bruce Simmons died in 2012, his widow sought financing for his funeral, and provided a third-party financier documents detailing the life-insurance policy Bruce had purchased through his former employer, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"Bristol-Myers' benefits department would not verify the coverage when it was contacted by the third-party financier," the widow says in the complaint.

But when funeral home owner Sam Rawls contacted the drug company, "an employee of the Bristol-Myers' benefits department told Mr. Rawls that there was a $6,000,000 policy on Mr. Simmons' life," the lawsuit states. "Astonished at the amount of the coverage, Mr. Rawls began to question the Bristol-Myers employee about the policy. The employee refused to give Mr. Rawls any additional information and said she probably 'was not supposed to have said anything about it.'

"The employee's statement that Mr. Simmons was covered by a $6,000,000 policy was astonishing because it was many times greater than any policy Mr. Simmons had ever purchased. Based on the statement of the Bristol-Myers Squibb employee that Mr. Simmons was covered by a $6,000,000 life insurance policy, Gigi Simmons believes, and therefore alleges, that Bristol-Myers bought a policy of 'corporate-owned life insurance' to insure her husband's life and named Bristol-Myers, or some entity that benefited Bristol-Myers, as the policy beneficiary.

"Bruce Simmons was not an officer of Bristol-Myers. He was not a member of the company's board of directors and was not a key employee. He was not indebted to the company and was not related to Bristol-Myers by blood or marriage. Mr. Simmons was a rank-and-file employee of the company. He was never informed about any policy of corporate-owned life insurance that insured his life and he never consented to such a policy."

Since Bristol-Myers has no insurable interest in Bruce Simmons' life, the unknown insurance company that issued the policy must hold the money in trust for his estate, the complaint states.

Simmons seeks a court order awarding class members all policy benefits Bristol-Myers received from the deaths of rank-and-file employees, with interest.

She is represented by Michael Kanovitz with Loevy & Loevy.

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