Slayer Statute Defined, Insurance Company Defeated

Excellent front-page “Metro” article in the Washington Post this morning regarding the Snider v. Ludwig case just decided by the United District Court in Alexandria. 

In July 2005, the defendant John Ludwig killed his wife in their home.  A Loudoun County jury, after testimony regarding the circumstances of the quarrel, convicted him of voluntary slaughter.  He is now serving a sentence in the state penitentiary.

Then the story goes from sad to just plain weird.

Mrs. Ludwig held a $100,000.00 life insurance policy with Boston Mutual.  Normally, that policy goes to the next of kin.  However, the common-law ”slayer statute” holds that a killer cannot profit from his crime.  Therefore, Mr. Ludwig should have been eliminated as a beneficiary and the funds paid to Mrs. Ludwig’s daughter by a previous marriage.

But that would make sense.  Instead, Boston Mutual sided with the husband’s claim that he was entitled to the money, because his killing was “manslaughter” and not technically murder.  As a result, Boston Mutual has refused to pay the daughter annd kept the case tied up in court for years.

You would think that the following conversation should have taken place at Boston Mutual …

Question:  “Should we pay the person who killed our client”

Answer:  “No, that’s the wrong thing to do.”

Anyway, Boston Mutual lost.  The Federal court ruled that Ludwig, despite his claim that the Virginia slayer statute does not cover manslaughter, is legally barred from recovering from his misdeed.  So the daughter will finally just get the proceeds from her mother’s policy.  Score one for the good guys.

By the way, the plaintiff in this case was represented by Scott Surovell, my law partner.  Scott’s a great attorney and has a strong sense of justice.  Otherwise, this travesty may have been allowed to occur.

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