92-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor’s Insurance Claim Denied After Caregivers Steal Her Prosthetic Legs, $145K Worth of Her Belongings

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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A 92-year-old double amputee and Holocaust survivor filed a claim with Fire Insurance Exchange after her caregivers stole $145,000 worth of her belongings, including her prosthetic legs. Her claim was denied. Now Erica Haines of Palm Springs, Calif., is suing Fire Insurance Exchange claiming she "was victimized by serial thievery of unscrupulous caregivers over a period of years. When she discovered her harm and submitted her claim to Fire Insurance Exchange, the carrier refused to pay, asserting that Erica could not prove that the thefts occurred."

Haines has had a policy with Fire Insurance Exchange, part of the Farmers Group, since 1967

A native of Austria, she escaped the Holocaust in the early years of WWII. In her claim, it states that she "remained loyal to Farmers ever since."

After moving to America, she “later lost both her legs to medical complications,” the complaint states. “Although strong of will, she lacks the physical capacity to wash and dress herself, move about her apartment and reach or even view the many objects that she has collected over the years."

It wasn’t until March that Haines "noticed that several gold spoons from one of her sets were missing. She asked her caregiver, Alejandra, to bring her more pieces of silverware and flatware from her collection. Most pieces were missing."

Once she noticed things were missing, she "began to take stock of all the items in her apartment. The two put together an inventory of all the missing things, which included clothing, jewelry, artwork, antiques, heirlooms and a vast array of collectibles."

She filed a police report of the theft on March 15. She filed a claim on her homeowner’s policy for $145,000 worth of “lost contents,” including “a spare pair of prosthetic legs, a set of hearing aids, canes, cameras, rare books, original paintings, cosmetics, clothing, medicine and Erica's wedding ring.”

Instead of sending an adjuster to her Palm Springs home, she received a letter from Farmers denying the claim on March 28.

"Farmers dispatched a letter to Erica denying her claim," the complaint states. "The letter said that Farmers' investigation had revealed that Erica failed to establish that any thefts occurred and that she had provided insufficient evidence proving the thefts."

“Erica Haines has suffered harm at the hands of criminal caregivers and now at the hands of her insurance company,” said her attorney, Howard Shernoff. “Farmers said that she couldn’t prove thefts occurred, even though she filed a police report and submitted a list of items that were stolen.”

The claim is seeking benefits under the policy, general and special damages and treble damages for bad faith.

Source: Court House News Service