Heath Ledger Estate Sues Insurance Company for $10 Million

September 30, 2008 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Australian Actor Heath Ledger and His Daughter, Matilda Rose

Actor Heath Ledger’s insurance company is being sued by his estate for failing to pay $10 million on a life insurance policy taken out only seven months before the Brokeback Mountain and Batman movie star’s death in January 2008 at age 28. ReliaStar Life Insurance Company claims that Ledger’s death may have been a suicide, even though the New York Medical Examiner’s office ruled that the actor’s death was accidental. The policy’s beneficiary is a trustee for Ledger’s daughter Matilda Rose, who turns three in October.

According to the medical examiner’s office, Ledger, best remembered as Ennis Del Mar in the movie Brokeback Mountain and as the Joker in The Dark Knight film, died from the combined effects of medications used to treat anxiety, insomnia and pain: alprazolam, diazepam, doxylamine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and temazepam. The report stated: “We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications.”

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

The lawsuit alleges that ReliaStar, owned by ING America, has acted in bad faith by not paying the $10 million and also alleges that the company has tried to wrongfully pry into the actor’s life. Instead of paying the money, ReliaStar has tried to investigate Ledger’s death as suspicious. A finding of suicide would nullify the insurance policy. But Matilda’s lawyers claim that ReliaStar is violating a California law which bars insurance companies from re-examining insurance applications following a policyholder’s death. According to TMZ, Matilda’s lawyers have received a ReliaStar letter asking the trust to identify “all physicians who attended to [Ledger] and all hospitals or institutions where [he] was treated since 1996.”

TMZ reports that ReliaStar intends to depose child star Mary-Kate Olsen, masseuse Diana Wolozin, who was one of two people who found the actor dead in bed in a SoHo apartment in New York City, people who worked with Ledger on his last film, agents, and medical personnel such as doctors and psychologists.

Movie Star Heath Ledger

ReliaStar apparently believes that Ledger may have lied when filling out his insurance application about whether he ever used illegal drugs and whether he was taking prescription drugs when he applied for life insurance. ReliaStar contends that it can contest the validity of the life insurance policy if the actor made material misrepresentations when filling out the application. Countering, Matilda’s lawyers contend that ReliaStar should have already paid the claim and that the company is behaving “maliciously, fraudulently and/or oppressively…depriving plaintiff of the insurance policy benefits.” With luck, perhaps Matilda’s claim will be paid by the time she’s an adult.

 

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