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King v. CIGNA Corp.

March 24, 2008

ANGELA KING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CIGNA CORPORATION, CIGNA GROUP INSURANCE, LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, AND CONNECTICUT GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff Angela King brings this action seeking life insurance benefits pursuant to a group life insurance policy issued by the defendants to her late husband Kevin King (Mr. King). Specifically, the plaintiff, whose husband was shot and killed by a police officer during a stand-off with police, contends that Mr. King died as a result of accidental injuries, and therefore, as named beneficiary, she is entitled to death benefits pursuant to the policy.

Defendants move for summary judgment against the plaintiff on grounds that there are no material facts in dispute, and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In support of their motion, defendants contend that the plaintiff is not entitled to benefits because her husband died under circumstances that are not covered by the policy. Specifically, the defendants argue that because the policy covers "accidental" deaths, Mr. King is not entitled to benefits because his death was intentional. Defendants further contend that because the policy excludes payment of benefits in cases where the decedent died during the commission of a felony, or in cases where the decedent intended his death, plaintiff is not entitled to benefits under the policy. Plaintiff opposes defendants' motion and cross-moves for summary judgment.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, and deny plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Angela King is the widow of Kevin King, a former employee of Electronic Data Systems located in Rochester, New York. Electronic Data Systems maintained a group life insurance policy for the benefit of its employees, and Mr. King was insured pursuant to the terms of that policy. The policy, in general, paid death benefits upon the accidental death of an insured, subject to certain, enumerated exclusions in coverage. The policy did not pay benefits in cases where a death occurred as a result of sickness, and did not provide coverage for, inter alia, deaths that resulted from "intentionally self-inflicted injury, or any attempt thereat, while sane or insane" or in cases where the death resulted from the "commission of a felony by the insured."

On May 24, 2005, Mr. King called his friend Kevin Dennis ("Dennis") and allegedly informed Dennis that he (King) had been drinking and had taken some pills, and that he was planning to force a police officer or officers to kill him by threatening a police officer with a gun. Mr. King allegedly further told Dennis that he was carrying a fake gun in his pants; that he owned a .22 caliber rifle, and that he would induce a police officer to shoot him by pointing the fake gun at an officer.

Dennis called 911 to report what Mr. King had told him, and to inform the police that Mr. King was in possession of both a fake and real gun. Emergency dispatchers had also received a call earlier that day from Catherine Lukasiewicz, who was located at Highland Hospital in the City of Rochester. Mr. King had recently completed a rehabilitation program at the Hospital, and contacted Lukasiewicz by telephone to tell her that he was feeling "homicidal" and that "someone was going to die today."

Prior to expressing his desire to be killed by police officers, or to kill a police officer, to Dennis and Lukasiewicz, King had told the plaintiff that he wanted to be killed by police officers so that plaintiff could collect insurance money upon his death. In a sworn statement filed by the plaintiff in Family Court on May 20, 2005, (several days before Mr. King engaged in his standoff with police) the plaintiff stated that Mr. King "wanted the police to chase him and, hopefully, kill [him] so [that plaintiff] and [her] children would be able to get some insurance money."

Upon receiving the 911 call from Dennis, officers from the Gates, New York, Police Department responded to Mr. King's apartment. Dennis, who was on the phone with Mr. King when the police arrived on the scene, heard Mr. King tell police: "I've got a gun, it's a .22 and I'm shooting." Officers who were present at the scene reported that Mr. King had threatened the officers, and repeatedly invited the officers to shoot him.

Officer John Auberger (Auberger) was one of the officers who responded to the emergency dispatch. Officer Auberger stated that he knocked on the door of Mr. King's apartment, and asked Mr. King to drop his weapon, and come out to discuss his situation. King refused to leave, and threatened to shoot Auberger in the head, allegedly stating that he knew that a shot from his rifle would not penetrate Auberger's protective vest. At one point, King quickly opened the door of his apartment and displayed a portion of what Auberger believed was an actual rifle. After Mr. King's death, it was determined that the rifle was a bb gun, not an actual .22 rifle.

For more than 20 minutes, Mr. King refused to leave his apartment. Auberger then heard what he believed was the sound of Mr. King loading his rifle. Shortly after Auberger heard this sound, Mr. King opened the door of his apartment, and, with his gun drawn and pointed at Auberger, charged towards Auberger. Fearing for his life, Auberger fatally shot Mr. King.

Following Mr. King's death, plaintiff made a claim for life insurance benefits pursuant to the insurance policy issued by the defendants. The defendants denied plaintiff's claim on grounds that Mr. King was killed during the commission of a felony, and that he intended ...


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