August 23, 2014

Sex Lies and Insurance


Sex and Lies are Common Bedfellows, as are Lies and Insurance

Sex and Lies are Common Bedfellows, as are Lies and Insurance.  But, Sex and Insurance?

It is not that often that the words sex, lies and insurance are referenced together; at least not until this West Virginia high court decision was published.  See New York Life v. Miller, Case No. 14-020280 (W. Va. 2014).

There, an unfortunate fellow, Mark A. Miller (no relation) sued New York Life because his ex-wife, Maria Miller had an adulterous affair with an insurance salesman.  Apparently the insurance representative helped Maria Miller roll over her 401(K) account, but their relationship did not end there.  Maria Miller and the insurance representative had an adulterous affair that lead to divorce.  To make matters worse, Mr. Miller developed a condition known as “Herpes Phobia,” which, for those that do not know,  is “a constant fear of contracting [the] loathsome disease [herpes].”  Mr. Miller did what others in this situation could only dream of doing.  He sued the insurance salesman and the insurance salesman’s employer, New York Life, for, among other things: conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, criminal conversation, adultery and breach of fiduciary duty.  I must admit, for human interest reasons alone, I was rooting for Mr. Miller to win this case. He, however, lost on all accounts.

I raise this case for two reasons.  First it is interesting.  But more importantly, it reminds me of something that was said over twenty years ago by the late Eugene Anderson, a truly inspiring and great insurance coverage lawyer.  I was a summer associate at Gene Anderson’s firm, Anderson Kill, and he thought that it would be good training for me to attend a court hearing, rather than just to sit in the office and do research.

I will never forget what transpired in that courtroom.  We walked into a Delaware courtroom, two strong, including Mr. Anderson and another senior partner at the firm (I don’t count myself, because I was not yet prepared to do battle).  Across from us filling the courtroom were perhaps fifty insurance company lawyers representing the various insurance carriers in the lawsuit.  The courtroom was packed with insurance company suits, and you could feel the nervous tension.  The Judge then entered the room, everyone stood, and he said, “Plaintiffs, you brought the motion, would you like to go first?”  The room was silent.  The grey haired Mr. Anderson walked slowly and deliberately to the podium, and stood for what seemed like an eternity in total silence.  Then he broke the silence, saying, “Your Honor, do you see all of these men here in suits representing the insurance companies?  They are all liars.”  The courtroom broke out with outbursts of objections coming from suits perched wherever there was space to stand.  The judge eventually calmed things down, stating that Mr. Anderson should be heard.

Certainly, lies and insurance go way back.

This brings me another thing that Mr. Anderson said that guides me to this day.  He said, “If you speak the truth, and you speak it loudly, and you speak it enough times, eventually someone will listen.”  Similarly, Mr. Anderson counseled, “read the insurance policy, and you will find the truth.”  With insurance coverage law, it is a given that you will be outnumbered by insurance company suits arguing that insurance policy language means something other than what is written.  It is also a given that very few will actually sit down and read the insurance policy.  To be successful, you have to firmly believe that speaking the truth will prevail.  You also have to be persistent and skilled enough to get someone (preferably the judge) to listen.

The lesson here is that lies and insurance may be long time bedfellows, but there are ways to prevail, even when outnumbered.

I’ll admit, this has nothing to do with sex, but the West Virginia decision is an interesting read nonetheless.

Miller Friel, PLLC is a specialized insurance coverage law firm whose sole purpose is to help corporate clients maximize their insurance coverage.  Our Focus of exclusively representing policyholders, combined with our extensive Experience in the area of insurance law, leads to greater efficiency, lower costs and better Results.  Further discussion and analysis of insurance coverage issues impacting policyholders can be found in our Miller Friel Insurance Coverage Blog and our 7 Tips for Maximizing Coverage series. For additional information about this post, please email or call Mark Miller (, 202-760-3161).

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