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Ledger's Life Insurance Co: Suicide = No Cash

9/29/2008 6:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Heath LedgerThe company that wrote Heath Ledger's $10 million life insurance policy is being sued after claiming the actor's death might have been a suicide, even though officials concluded it was accidental. Lawyers for Ledger's daughter say it's a transparent ploy to avoid paying the money.

ReliaStar Life Insurance Company wrote the policy in June 2007 -- six months before Ledger died. The beneficiary of the policy is a trustee who would hold the money for 2-year-old Matilda.

Instead of paying the $10 mil, ReliaStar set out to investigate whether Ledger took his own life, despite the fact that the New York City Medical Examiner ruled the death accidental.

TMZ has obtained a lawsuit, filed by Matilda's trustee, claiming ReliaStar (owned by ING Americas) has acted in bad faith by not promptly paying the $10 million and by wrongfully prying into the life of Heath Ledger after his death.

Sources say lawyers for the insurance company have claimed Ledger's death was "suspicious" -- possibly suicide, which would nullify the policy. The company alleges in its answer to the lawsuit, "ReliaStar is entitled to investigate Plaintiff's claim to determine if the 'Suicide' provision is applicable." That provision states, "If the Insured commits suicide ... we will pay only the amount of premiums paid to us."

ReliaStar's lawyers have informed Matilda's lawyers they intend to take the depositions of Mary-Kate Olsen, as well as the masseuse who was at Ledger's home when he died, Ledger's colleagues on his last film, his agents, doctors, psychologists and others. Lawyers for Matilda believe the insurance company is trying to scare and shame them into submission. They believe ReliaStar is trying to drag the process out, for what could be years, to avoid paying the money.

We're also told ReliaStar believes Ledger may have lied on two questions on his insurance application -- specifically, whether he was taking prescription drugs when he filled out the application and whether he ever used illegal drugs.

In its answer to the lawsuit, ReliaStar claims it can contest the policy if Ledger lied on the application and it was a "material misrepresentation." Sources tell us Ledger had a prescription for Ambien when he filled out the application, but Ambien was not in his system when he died, nor were any illegal drugs.

Lawyers for Matilda's trust claim ReliaStar is flagrantly violating California law, which prohibits insurance companies from re-examining insurance applications after the policyholder dies. In the lawsuit, Matilda's lawyers say they received a letter from ReliaStar, asking them to identify "all physicians who attended to [Ledger] and all hospitals or institutions where [he] was treated since 1996." Matilda's lawyers say the request blatantly violates the law.

An official for ReliaStar told TMZ, "No decision has been made on the claim." But lawyers for Matilda's trust believe ReliaStar should have already paid and, according to the suit, is acting "maliciously, fraudulently and/or oppressively ... depriving plaintiff of the insurance policy benefits."

73 COMMENTS

No Avatar
16.

angela    

I think the insurance companies suck and don't care about anyone. They actually hire people to disprove claims so they don't have to payout. I hope no bails there ass out. Angela

2110 days ago
17.

summertime    

The insurance company is never going to pay a dime if he lied on the application stating that he was not on any rx drugs. 1 lie and you are screwed.

2110 days ago
18.

Bob T    

Where is Danny Glover (the Rainmaker) when you need him?

2110 days ago
19.

EkatH    

That is so crapy that the insurance company would do that... but again that is your typical insurance company. They never want to pay out the correct way!!!

2110 days ago
20.

Kay    

Why would they insure a heavy drug user? Sounds like the insurance company planned to use this streategy all along if he overdosed.

2110 days ago
21.

Joe    

If its under California law then punitive damages are allowed for bad faith. The damages would be based on the worth of the company, so in theory could be 10 or even 100 times the amount in question. A good insurance lawyer like Shernoff, Bidaret and darras will take care of this quickly, probably settle for 50 million.

2110 days ago
22.

LoSeR    

To everyone that jumped all over poor Mary-Kate -- THIS IS WHY she did NOT want to talk!! Anyone with a brain knew that she didn't want to say something that could screw this up and we ALL know who greedy insurance companies try to twist words to get the result THEY want to hear!!

2110 days ago
23.

culturelady    

What a damn disgrace this is! Tar and feather this insurance company for good! I hope people who have them read this and pull their policies ASAP. This was NOT a suicide. It was exactly what #10 said - he died from an interaction of meds trying to get some sleep. He was flat out exhausted. If he wanted to kill himself, he would have either taken a bottle of the same pills and left a note....he wasn't viscious and loved his daughter. This was a death in vain. I hope this insurance co. goes down, and the politicians they have in their back pocket will relent and give this baby what she deserves! This effects us all. And #14, the moron who wrote that he didn't die from an overdose of prescription drugs and bringing 9/11 into the issue, you clearly don't understand the pain families of drug overdoses go through and are denegrating the families who lost loved ones in 9/11 along with the souls of those who lost their lives to these disgusting terrorists!

2110 days ago
24.

ttyl    

Insurance companies are scam artist.
They are quick to take your money, but when its time for them to pay a claim they make up any excuse not to pay.
I hate insurance companies, they all need to go down like Merrill Lynch did.
Give Heath what he deserved you pieces of garbage!

2110 days ago
25.

mittelfrueh    

in most states insurance companies will pay even if the cause of death is suicide as long as the policy has been in effect for one or two years.

2110 days ago
26.

sommyisaslut    

I worked for that company and left after seven years. I have nothing good to say about it, and not surprised they are trying to do that. If only the policyowners knew who and what was servicing their money they would be horrified.

2110 days ago
27.

jockflip    

Remember this bogus ReliaStar insurance company. They don't pay claims. Even they know it's not suicide, may they get out of insurance after this is done.

2110 days ago
28.

dee    

No way would the insurance company write a 10Million policy to someone who takes several prescription drugs that can kill within a 24 hour period without writing all kinds of exclusions in the policy. The insurance company has every right to examine the cause of death of such a young person who said they were healthy and "didn't take" prescription drugs. It doesn't matter that the medical examiner listed the death as accidental. If Ledger listed what all he takes on the insurance application the insurance company would have requested medical records from the doctors to find why he was taking these drugs before writing such a large policy and would have written in exclusions to the policy.

2110 days ago
29.

Sean    

F987&*(#&%*(ing Insurance Companies. They don't want to pay - because they probably don't have the capital to pay it out. No insurance or bank company now-a-days has the money. So, they are making all of these stale claims to delay. What a shame>!!!!!!

2110 days ago
30.

QE2    

Since insurance companies basically regulate themselves (or have no regulation whatsoever), I doubt that they will ever be held accountable. However, I think that in cases where they fight paying out and end up having to pay, they should have to pay interest, the other party's legal fees, and cpmpensation for any duress caused to the beneficiary. JMO. Never will happen, though.

2110 days ago
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