Investigating the Life Insurance Policy

by Grace4Ayla on July 11, 2013

According to Trista Reynolds’ official timeline of events, Justin DiPietro was given temporary custody of their daughter, Ayla Bell Reynolds, at a DHHS family meeting. This meeting took place shortly after Trista had been admitted to rehab, and also three days after Justin had already taken physical custody of Ayla. Some reports of this event have stated that Ayla kicked, screamed and even attempted to bite the police officer who was escorting Justin. Trista Reynolds claims that Justin DiPietro was supposed to bring Ayla to visit her in rehab, and then return Ayla when she was released.

Instead, Justin DiPietro purchased a life insurance policy against his daughter’s life the very same day as the DHHS meeting. Trista told the media that Justin lied to her in order to obtain Ayla’s social security number, and that he did not ask her permission to purchase the policy. In my earlier post, Derek Tudela and the LIP, we looked at the insurance agent’s responsibilities, but what about Justin? Was what he did illegal? And if so, what recourse does Trista have now?

Making the Call

It has long been my belief that obtaining the life insurance must have been illegal, because Justin DiPietro neither had proper parental custody nor Trista’s consent to purchase the policy. When my research did not uncover the appropriate statute, I made a call to the Maine Insurance Commission.

Here is their response:

I’ve been asked to respond to your query.

Please find enclosed copies of 24-A M.R.S.A. sections 2404 and 2408 which should address your question. Our understanding is that a parent can buy life insurance on his or her minor child without the consent of the other parent.

We would note that life insurers have the ability to conduct such investigations as they deem appropriate, both as part of the underwriting process and at time of claim.

Beyond that, we will not comment on the subject of an ongoing investigation.

We hope this is helpful.

Thomas M. Record
Senior Staff Attorney
Maine Bureau of Insurance
(207)624-8424
thomas.m.record@maine.gov

Visit the Bureau’s web site at www.maine.gov/insurance or http://www.insureuonline.org/ to view the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s (NAIC) comprehensive public education program called Insure U. This interactive program is designed to provide consumers with pertinent information about insurance options to fit their needs at different stages of their lives.

Here is the excerpt from the statute he is referring to:

24-A §2408. CONSENT OF INSURED FOR HEALTH AND LIFE INSURANCE

1. No life or health insurance contract upon an individual, including contracts which may arise under section 2404, subsection 3, paragraph D, may be made or effectuated, unless at the time of the making of the contract the individual insured, being of competent legal capacity to contract, applies for coverage or has provided written consent, except under the following circumstances.

     A. A spouse may effectuate insurance upon the other spouse. [1989, c. 353, §3 (NEW).]

    B. Any person having an insurable interest in the life of a minor, or any person upon whom a minor is dependent for support and maintenance, may effectuate insurance upon the life of the minor. [1989, c. 353, §3 (NEW).]

Insurable Interest or Insurance Fraud?

Under Maine Law, Justin DiPietro did not need Trista Reynolds’ consent to purchase the life insurance policy on Ayla. But, this information raises a more important point: Did Justin have insurable interest or was he the person Ayla depended upon for support and maintenance, as the statute reads?

As previously stated, Justin was given temporary custody on the day of the team meeting, and had agreed to return Ayla upon Trista’s release from rehab. It was several days or weeks later that he was given permission to keep the child longer, but at the time of the insurance policy purchase he was, according to Trista Reynolds, planning to return Ayla to her mother very soon. Therefore, Justin must have lied to Derek Tudela, his best friend and insurance agent about Ayla’s true custody status.

From these statutes it is clear that Justin DiPietro did not have the legal right to insure Ayla Bell Reynolds according to the second criteria. But did he have insurable interest?

24-A §2404. INSURABLE INTEREST — PERSONAL INSURANCE

1. Any individual of competent legal capacity may procure or effect an insurance contract upon his own life or body for the benefit of any person. But no person shall procure or cause to be procured any insurance contract upon the life or body of another individual unless the benefits under such contract are payable to the individual insured or his personal representatives, or to a person having, at the time when such contract was made, an insurable interest in the individual insured.
[ 1969, c. 132, §1 (NEW) .]

2. If the beneficiary, assignee, or other payee under any contract made in violation of this section receives from the insurer any benefits thereunder accruing upon the death, disablement, or injury of the individual insured, the individual insured or his executor or administrator, as the case may be, may maintain an action to recover such benefits from the person so receiving them.
[ 1969, c. 132, §1 (NEW) .]

3. “Insurable interest” as to such personal insurance means that every individual has an insurable interest in the individual’s own life, body, and health, and that a person has an insurable interest in other individuals as follows:

A. In the case of individuals related closely by blood or by law, a substantial interest engendered by loveand affection; [1969, c. 132, §1 (NEW).

Justin only made five visits with Ayla before he took custody, and she was returned injured twice and sunburned once. He fell on her, broke her arm, waited over 24 hours to get her emergency treatment, and she disappeared a few weeks after that! He had physical custody of Ayla Reynolds for only three days when the policy was purchased. You can’t convince me that Justin DiPietro had love and affection for that poor little girl. His actions then and now prove otherwise.

What Could Trista Do?

Does Trista Reynolds have any legal recourse in the face of these facts? That depends. If her claims are true that Justin did not return Ayla when ordered, and that the welfare visits from Child Protective Services were never carried out, then I’d say she has a good chance of not only suing DHHS, but also filing a complaint against Derek Tudela with the Maine Bureau of Insurance.

Despite not needing a mother’s consent to purchase the policy, Trista could argue that Justin DiPietro did not have full custody of the child and had not been supporting and maintaining Ayla for very long, (child support does not fully support a child). Justin had no insurable interest as evidenced by Trista’s complaints to CPS, as well as his actions since the disappearance. All of this suggests that Justin knowingly misrepresented his situation to the insurance salesman and should have never been sold the policy in the first place.

Somehow, though, I don’t think we will be reading about Trista Reynolds filing any kind of lawsuit in the near future. It may be too late for that anyway.

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