Vanderbilt and the Mixed Claims Commission

Part XI.B

Michael
Sean Quinn*

(*See Below
for Further Information)

As
set forth in Part I.A, Alfred Vanderbilt was drowned in the Lusitania disaster and could not recover
under his life insurance policy because of a war risk exclusion-rider specially
attached to his policy. (It made no different whatever that the policy was a
so-called “life and accident” policy. From the point of view of the insured,
the cause of his death was an accident.  He certainly did not intend it, nor did the
captain of the German U-Boat. He meant to sink the liner, but not kill Mr.
Vanderbilt.

After
World War I was over, Germany and America created a Mixed Claims Commission. It
is characterized more fully in Part XI.A. In Part XI.B—here–the treatment of
compensatory damages for his members of his family is considered.  There was his remarried widow and three
children, two by the widow and one by the previous wife. 

The
amount awarded all of them was $0.00. Germany owed his family member not one
cent–whether individually or together. 
No explicit explanation is provided in the Commission’s opinion. See
Docket Number 2187, March 19, 1925. (The Judgment was drafted by the Umpire,
Edwin B. Parker, although there is no suggestion that the two Commissioners
disagrees.)

It is
not hard to figure it out, however.  Mr.
Vanderbilt’s wealth produced most of the income for everyone; it was about
$300,000.00.  He didn’t make any money
but lived off his inheritance.  Hence the
family members were not actually deprived of any income. Such deprivation was
the foundation of recovery under the Commission rules, even if there could be
other grounds. Hence the family members had no entitlement.

Interestingly
the net value of his estate drawn up for New York state tax purposes after all
debts and end-of-life expenses were paid was  $15,594,836.32. Today this amount would be in
the billions. 
  Here is what the Umpire wrote:
Bearing in mind that the measure of the awards which
this Commission is empowered to make in this case is not the value of the life
lost but the losses to the claimants resulting
from the decedent’s death, so far only as such losses are susceptible of being
measured by pecuniary standards, and applying 
the rules announced in the Lusitania
Opinion[, a general and preliminary orientation opinion] and the other
decisions of this Commission to the facts in this case, the Commission decrees
that under the Treaty of Berlin of August 25, 1921, and in accordance with its
terms[,] the Government of Germany is not obligated to pay the Government of
the United States any amount on behalf of the claimants herein or any of them.


Remember the way payments worked.
Germany always paid the U.S. federal government, and it then distributed money
to the claimants, and Germany had nothing to do with those transactions.  

Interestingly
the net value of his estate drawn up for New York state tax purposes after all
debts and end-of-life expenses were paid was 
$15,594,836.32. Today this amount would be in the billions. 

There
is something very odd about the MCC’s opinion. Vanderbilt had a long history of
making spectacular investments, e.g., in a New York City hotel. In other words,
he was—among other things—a real estate developer. The MCC refused to award
benefits because Vanderbilt had not had a job for some time. Either the MCC
members were prejudiced against awards when the decedents were very wealthy, or
their lawyers and the presentating “agents” fouled their cases up.

  

Michael Sean Quinn, Ph.D.,
J.D., C.P.C.U. . . .

The Law Firms of Michael Sean Quinn et

Quinn and Quinn

                                 1300 West Lynn Street, Suite 208

                                             Austin,
Texas 78703

                                                 (512)
296-2594

                                            (512)
344-9466 – Fax

                                E-mail:  mquinn@msquinnlaw.com

Originally posted on 07/01/2015 @ 4:55 pm

Michael Sean Quinn, PhD, JD, CPCU, Etc

Michael Sean Quinn, PhD, JD, CPCU, Etc. (530)

One of Texas's leading insurance scholars, Michael Sean Quinn is a past chair of the Insurance Section of the State Bar of Texas and has a broad legal practice.

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