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Court supports insurance denial after suicidal man is killed

A Louisiana court of appeals has ruled that the family of a man is not entitled to collect on the man’s life insurance policy after his death in 2010. The man was shot to death by a sheriff’s deputy; the appellate court ruled that the victim put himself in the position of dying this way, and implied that doing so was a form of suicide.

The man’s nephew called 911 in January 2010 to report that his uncle was in his garage, sitting in his truck with a loaded gun, threatening to kill himself. Two deputies responded and entered the house, observing the man inside the garage.

The deputies asked the man to put his gun down, but the man declined, saying he wanted to get a beer from the kitchen, where the deputies were standing. He fired a shot into the garage wall, then got out of the truck. Gun in hand, he walked toward the kitchen, telling the deputies, “I want to commit suicide,” the ruling says.

One of the deputies opened fire from inside the kitchen, shooting four times. Three of the bullets hit the man in the chest. He later died as a result.

The man’s family later filed a claim on his life insurance, arguing that his death was accidental. But the company denied the claim, saying the death was not “unexpected.”

The appellate judges agreed. They noted that the man had been drinking, and had taken 11 prescription pills, the day he died. Besides holding the gun to his head, the man told a bartender “it’s over,” and was heard revving his engine inside the garage, in a possible suicide attempt.

It appears that the court is saying that the man intended to commit suicide, and thus should have known that the deputies would arrive, and shoot him when he advanced on them with a gun.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Death Benefits Denied in Cop-Shooting Case,” Erik de la Garza, Oct. 29, 2014

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