Monday, June 1, 2020

No. 375: A Viatical Is Ruled Illegal After 21 Years

In January 1999, a predecessor to Jackson National Life Insurance Company issued a $500,000 ten-year term insurance policy on the life of Kelly Douglas Couch. Recently a federal judge in Georgia declared the policy void ab initio (from the beginning) as an illegal human life wagering contract. The case illustrates the long-term consequences of viaticals issued during the AIDS crisis. (See Jackson v. Crum, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Case No. 1:17-cv-3857.)

The Lawsuit
In October 2017, Jackson filed a lawsuit against Sterling Crum, an investor (I call him a speculator in human life) in the secondary market for life insurance policies. Crum had eventually acquired the Couch policy, and had sought the death benefit after Couch's death.

Midland Life Insurance Company, a Jackson predecessor, issued the Couch policy in 1999, as mentioned earlier. Jackson, in its lawsuit, sought a declaratory judgment that the policy was void ab initio as an illegal human life wagering contract.

In November 2017, Crum moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. The judge denied the motion. In April 2018, Crum filed a counterclaim against Jackson. In June 2018, Jackson answered the counterclaim. In March 2019, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. In April 2019, the judge denied both motions.

A bench trial began August 26, 2019, and ended August 29. The judge heard closing arguments on November 5. On March 2, 2020, the judge issued an Order declaring the policy void ab initio as an illegal human life wagering contract. The details of the policy's long journey from Couch to Crum are complex. Instead of trying to summarize them here, I am including the Order, which describes the details thoroughly, in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post.

The Appeal
On April 1, 2020, Crum filed a notice of appeal. At this time, dates for the filing of initial briefs have not been set. (See Jackson v. Crum, U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 20-11280.)

General Observations
Before I started this blog site in October 2013, I published The Insurance Forum, my monthly newsletter, from January 1974 through December 2013. Working on this blog post brought to mind some Forum articles I wrote about viaticals in 1999, the year the Couch policy was issued. I think readers of this blog who did not see those articles may find them interesting. The articles may help readers understand my long-time negative outlook on the secondary market for life insurance policies in general and on viaticals in particular. The Forum articles are in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post.

Available Material
I am offering a complimentary 50-page package consisting of the judge's March 2020 Order (24 pages) and the 1999 Forum articles about viaticals (26 pages). Email and ask for the June 2020 package about Jackson v. Crum.