When Carl Danz died after a 1999 accident in Wisconsin, his family in Pasadena immediately assumed his death was caused by the crash - the truck he was driving had rolled and flipped on a highway.
But more than a month later, they received the death certificate that listed the cause of death as an "acute myocardial infarction," a heart attack, leaving Danz's two sons unable to collect the $1 million from their father's accidental-death insurance policies.
"It was quite a shock," said C. Russell Danz, one of Danz's sons, who have sued Cigna Corp. and Life Insurance Company of North America, claiming that the accident was the only possible cause of their father's death. "We'd seen the pictures of the truck, the funeral director said it was pretty bad, and then [the death certificate] comes back listing natural causes."
C. Russell Danz, 33, and his brother Charles E. Danz, 31, are seeking to collect $500,000 each from two policies that Carl Danz had with Life Insurance Company of North America, a subsidiary of Cigna, while he worked as a truck driver for Rhodia, a chemical company in Curtis Bay.
Policy a source of comfort
"Carl always told the boys, 'If something happens to me on the road, I've got this policy,'" said Charlette Howe, the sons' mother and Carl Danz's former wife.
The suit was filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in February, but the venue was changed to U.S. District Court in Baltimore at the request of the defendants, which are not based in Maryland.
On Nov. 18, 1999, Carl Danz, 54, was driving west on Interstate 94 near Eau Claire County, Wis., and lost control of the truck he was driving for Rhodia, according to the lawsuit. He was driving near the posted speed limit, according to the lawsuit, when his truck "rolled, flipped and came to a sudden and violent stop."
Extent of wounds
Danz was declared dead at the scene. His skull was caved in, and he suffered trauma to his head, neck, torso and legs, according to the lawsuit. The deputy medical examiner of Eau Clair County, who according to the lawsuit is not a medical doctor, noted blood in some of Danz's body cavities, and the liver was cut.
However, the cause of death was determined to be a heart attack, said Alfred L. Scanlan Jr., the Danzes' lawyer.
"We have already provided the other side with one medical report from a board-certified cardiologist that goes completely contrary to that," Scanlan said.
When the family received the death certificate in January last year, members immediately sent it to the insurance companies but were unable to collect the $1 million in insurance because the death was not ruled an accident, C. Russell Danz said.
Barrett W. Freedlander, lawyer for Cigna and Life Insurance Company of North America, declined to comment on the case.
In the filed response to the lawsuit, the companies deny that Carl Danz's death was a result of the accident and that the companies owe the sons benefits. The response claims that Cigna, a company that holds the stocks of other corporations, including the Life Insurance Company of North America, is not an insurance company and requested that Cigna be dismissed from the case and judgment be made in favor of the Life Insurance Company of North America.
The sons were able to collect $114,000 from their father's life insurance policy, but they need the money from the accidental-death policies, C. Russell Danz said. Since his father's death, he has been struggling to make the payments on the Pasadena house that he and his father bought in 1994.
"It's been a strain, trying to keep the place and pay the bills when I thought something was coming," he said. "I'm just trying to make ends meet."