SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 28 (Reuters) – The New York Life Insurance Company has agreed to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit over unpaid policies by heirs of Armenians killed in the Turkish Ottoman empire, California’s Insurance Commissioner and lawyers said on Wednesday.
Under the settlement, New York Life will provide $20 million to pay an estimated 2,400 unpaid claims and to establish a charitable fund serving the Armenian community.
The agreement settles a class lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in 1999 that sought payment for insurance policies held by ethnic Armenians killed in Turkey in the early 20th century, said plaintiff’s lawyer Vartkes Yeghiayan.
The agreement comes nearly three years after an earlier $10 million deal to settle the lawsuit fell apart and sent both sides back to the negotiating table.
“Many of the survivors of these policyholders live in California and I am gratified that due to the parties’ hard work in this matter, justice will finally be served,” said California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, whose office assisted in the talks.
More than 1.5 million people were killed in 1915 and thousands more were deported as the Ottoman Empire fell apart at the start of World War I in what Armenians, some nations and many historians officially recognize as a genocide.
Turkey denies that a genocide took place and argues that any killings in 1915 were part of partisan fighting in which Turks also suffered.
New York Life, a mutual company, said it would contribute at least $3 million to Armenian civic organizations as part of the $20 million settlement.
“Our willingness today to resolve policies that may remain unpaid from that era shows that New York Life adheres to the same values of integrity and humanity that guided us then,” New York Life chairman and chief executive Sy Sternberg said in a statement.
Yeghiayan said the settlement also applies to the survivors of Armenian policy holders who live outside California.
“We are going to be making the announcement nationally and internationally,” he said.