Widow Loses Fight For Payout — (The Courant)

SSRI Ed note: Man on Lexapro takes out insurance, lies about taking medication, arranges to be killed, widow has claim denied.

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The Courant

$15 Million Insurance Policy

February 26, 2009

By DAVE ALTIMARI, daltimar@courant.com

The widow of slain Greenwich real estate developer Andrew Kissel has lost her bid to get an insurance company to pay off on a $15 million life insurance policy.

The company had sued Hayley Kissel, saying it did not have to pay because Andrew Kissel had withheld the fact that he was a chronic drug user and had sought psychiatric care.

One of the police theories in the 2006 slaying was that Kissel – who was facing 10 years in federal prison for bilking banks – had hired somebody to kill him so that his two children could get the $15 million payout.

Hayley Kissel had made counterclaims that the insurance agent who sold Andrew Kissel the policy violated state law by encouraging Kissel to drop two uncontested life insurance policies worth $4 million and by hiding the fact that he knew of her husband’s drug problems.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant ruled recently that Andrew Kissel signed what he knew were false documents. The ruling entitles Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. to rescind the $15 million policy.

Connecticut is among the few states that allow insurance companies to withhold payment on a life insurance policy based on false medical information provided by a policyholder – even if the cause of death is unrelated.

Bryant also dismissed Hayley Kissel’s assertions regarding the insurance agent, Jeffrey Weinstein, although she acknowledged that he might have committed fraud.

Andrew Kissel was brutally killed in April of 2006, about two months before the $15 million policy would have become incontestable under state law.

Police have charged Carlos Trujillo, Kissel’s chauffeur, and Leonard Trujillo, a relative of Carlos, in the slaying.

In her ruling, Bryant detailed Kissel’s extensive drug use and the deep psychiatric problems that caused him to see numerous doctors over the years.

At one point Kissel had four doctors writing him prescriptions for five drugs, including Lexapro, Zithromax and Percocet, according to the 15-page summary ruling Bryant issued.

Kissel was on the antidepressant Lexapro when he was killed and had admitted to several of his psychiatrists that he had a history of mental illness and heavy cocaine use, dating from the 1990s, court records show.

When asked on the medical questionnaire for the Northwestern policy whether he was on any medication, he answered, “yes – multiple vitamins.” When asked whether he had been treated for emotional problems or depression, he answered “no.”

Court documents show that Kissel even lied about his brother, Robert Kissel. When asked about his family history, he said his brother was “healthy,” even though he had been murdered a few years earlier by his wife in Hong Kong.

“It seems like almost everything on that application was false, except his name,” Greenwich attorney Patrick R. Gil said.

Gil is a party in the lawsuit because he was named executor of Andrew Kissel’s estate, even though Hayley Kissel was the beneficiary of the insurance policy.

Gil said he was surprised that Bryant ruled without sending the case to a jury and that he expects the decision to be appealed.

Stamford attorney Brian Daley, who is representing Hayley Kissel, would not comment on the decision Wednesday. Daley said an appeal of Bryant’s decision is being reviewed.

Kissel’s body was discovered about 6 a.m. on the morning of April 3, 2006, by furniture movers. The Kissels were moving out of the house during their divorce proceedings. There were no signs of forced entry and no signs of a struggle inside.

Investigators believe either that Kissel let the killer or killers through the security gate at the bottom of the driveway, and then into the house, or that someone who had the code to the security gate and a key to the house gained entry.

He had been tied up and stabbed several times in the back.

Leonard Trujillo of Worcester, Mass., has been charged with capital felony, and Carlos Trujillo, who police believe was the last person to see Kissel alive, has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Police allege that Carlos hired Leonard to kill Andrew Kissel, although they have not revealed a motive. Both men have pleaded not guilty and are being held, awaiting separate trials.