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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
46.

Party 'till you die!    

Sheila, I bet you saw a lot there! I had a friend who worked for one for a while before quitting out of sheer disgust. He said the tactics they used were brutal and illegal! He told me that's how they all work. Do whatever was needed to avoid a payout and if someone bitches, intimidate them and crush them with their highly paid lawyers and deep pockets.

2113 days ago
47.

Esq    

Insurance companies control a disproportionate amount of our country. We don't need tort reform we need insurance reform.

2113 days ago
48.

Benz    

ING ReliaStar is a great company. Ledger lied on the application stating that he didn't use cocaine, which we all know he did. No company offers coverage to drug users beacuse it is a high risk lifestyle that often leads to death.

Mr. Trustee, here are your premiums back--thanks for playing.

By the way, the insurance industry is the most highly regulated industry in exsistence.

2112 days ago
49.

youraloser    

this is the same company this past June that shut down its on site daycare center and left the parents of some 60 children to find new daycare in a month because they didn't want to build more office space!! They are constanly looking to hire anyone since it has a high turnaround rate. You start entry level at 8.50 an hour and is considered on of the best jobs in one of their main centers in....Minot NORTH DAKOTA. Think about who is servicing these people's policies. And now that there is the big financial slump going on in the stock markets....at lot of the policies have their monies invested in subaccounts of mutual funds....just be glad you aren't a policy holder getting a letter in the mail stating you need to send in more money or your policy could be in danger of cancelling!

2112 days ago
50.

MIss_You_Heath    

OK, first of all -- you only get paid double on accidental death if you paid for an accidental death rider. Heath's policy was for $10 million... period. It is the law in ALL states that insurance companies must pay after 2 years (1 year in Missouri) if the policyholder committed suicide. They also must pay after 2 years if you lied on the application. If you die in the first 2 years, they have EVERY RIGHT to investigate whether or not it was a valid claim. It's ridiculous to think they should pay up anyway on suicide in the first 2 years... everyone who wanted to kill themselves would take out an insurance policy first!

Personally, I think Reliastar should look more at the misrepresenation than suicide. If the rumors of Heath using illegal drugs were true, then he lied. Period. Because his policy was issued Preferred, he HAD to have been asked about illegal drugs and denied it. Also, there is no such thing as a "prescription drug" exclusion. The only exclusions being written these days are for private aviation, sky diving, things like that. And yeah, I work in life insurance, but not for Reliastar.

2112 days ago
51.

yer mom's soo effin hot!!    

i mean doesn't every insurance company who is insuring a hollywood star know, that they are insuring some wild acting people, and not one's who only do yoga, meditate, eat organic and raw and vegan foods, aren't having any s*x or drink anything but himalayan glacier water?...oh. wait..

2112 days ago
52.

Ashley    

#39 - Heath Fan -- Um, did you not read how Heath's family gave up their inheritance of Heath's estate to Matilda? Yeah, they did, and it's worth about $20 million. I am going to say that $20 million will definitely take care of her, not to mention her mother is well-off, too. If you think that $20 million would not take care of someone for a damn long time, if not their whole life, you must live an exquisite lifestyle or worship the rich. Heaven forbid this child ever have to actually WORK for a living, like most of us, and EARN money on her own...

Seriously, $1 million would pay my rent for five years ($50k), cover my student expenses incl. grad school ($200k tops), pay off my car ($25k) and my credit cards ($8k), buy me some decent clothes for five years ($8k), put food on my table three times a day for five years ($75k), and leave me with leftover money to open my own vet office and other stuff (~$700k). I wouldn't have to work for five years, and I could stretch it even longer if I really wanted to. I'd be happy with $100k right no just to loosen my stress and work schedule so I could spend more time studying, but I do not NEED more than that because I have job. What would someone do with $30 million+ other than blow it on partying, expensive meals every night, designer duds, lavish cars, etc.? There's exceptions, of course, and I really hope this rich little girl grows up to be one of them.

#39 - They are not only investigating suicide (yes, I agree this is somewhat stupid because it'll be expensive and complicated to argue with the medical examiner so late after the ruling), they are also investigating his lies about drug use on his application. The policy was not in place for two years, so this complicates things.

2112 days ago
53.

jb    

Poor Heathy, will he ever be able to rest in peace?

2112 days ago
54.

G    

Yes, there is absolutely no way ReliStar would insure a drug addict. No one would. It would have been a decline, and they have every right to investigate... he lies about drug use on app, 6 months later he dies of an accidental overdose... this is why laws like this are in place to protect the insurance company. They would go under if they had to pay claims when people lie on an application. I work in insurance and I see it all the time...but the problem really is that Heath probably didn't even look at the application, it was filled out FOR him and he just signed it... I see this all the time and always wonder what happens when the advisor checks off whatever he feels like...

2112 days ago
55.

G    

I agree with the Attorney...How dare the insurance company do this...I hope they loose even MORE money out of the deal..

2112 days ago
56.

Ashley    

I did some research and contacted some resourceful life insurance people (not from companies themselves) -- they say if you die within the two years and the co. finds out you lied on the app., the policy is null and void. There is clear evidence Heath lied about the drug use, no? I don't remember when the video was shot, though, so maybe it was after the app. was filled out? They could argue this perhaps, but they could always try to find other evidence of drug use. Plus, he lied about the prescription (I don't understand why) so whether or not it had anything to do with his death, he lied. Anyway, here is the law if anyone is interested:

10113.5. (a) An individual life insurance policy delivered or
issued for delivery in this state shall contain a provision that it
is incontestable after it has been in force, during the lifetime of
the insured, for a period of not more than two years after its date
of issue, except for nonpayment of premiums and except for any of the
supplemental benefits described in Section 10271, to the extent that
the contestability of those benefits is otherwise set forth in the
policy or contract supplemental thereto. An individual life
insurance policy, upon reinstatement, may be contested on account of
fraud or misrepresentation of facts material to the reinstatement
only for the same period following reinstatement, and with the same
conditions and exceptions, as the policy provides with respect to
contestability after original issuance.

(b) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), if photographic
identification is presented during the application process, and if an
impostor is substituted for a named insured in any part of the
application process, with or without the knowledge of the named
insured, then no contract between the insurer and the named insured
is formed, and any purported insurance contract is void from its
inception.

The claim can not be contested after two years.

2111 days ago
57.

Beth%    

Think of it this way. If you were going to off yourself, wouldn't you get a large life policy for your family before you did it? That is exactly why they have the 2 years sucide/contestable period in life policies. I don't think they should deny it because of them thinking it is sucide, especially when they have already determined it is not. But, if he lied on the application and they wouldn't have issued a policy in the first place because of lies or omitting information, they shouldn't pay the claim. I know of NO insurance company that would issue of a policy to a cocaine user. If they knew that material FACT at the time they would have offered him the coverage and therefore shouldn't pay it.


2110 days ago
58.

Annette85    

poo poo ReliaStar. Thats terrible of them. Also very ballsey to blatantly violate the law in such a high profile case. I also agree that they are trying to intimidate Olsen and the maid. Very poor play. I realize its 10mn, but very cheap and poor play.

2110 days ago
59.

Chicago Heather    

Insurance companies like this are the bottomfeeders who rank just below lawyers, used car salesmen & drug dealers. Shame on them for denying his daughter what is rightfully hers. If Heath Ledger's death has been clearly ruled accidental by the authorities & the coroner, who the heck are they to second guess? As publicized as his death was, I am quite certain the investigation was especially thorough. Quit making the situation even more painful. Ledger paid for life insurance, as many of us do, to provide for his daughter in the vent of his death. The purchase of a policy is a legally binding contract. Do what is right- what the law requires. This disgusts me.

2110 days ago
60.

Beth%    

Heather and Annette- If you LIE on an application and get they issue a policy based on the LIE why should they have to pay. That is important material information. If you LIE you lose. I agree that the sucide shouldn't even come up but, he if he wasn't truthful on the application (by omitting information about illegal drug use) they shouldn't have to pay.

2110 days ago
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