Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A battle for justice, freedom and $10 million

Alan Gross
Lawyers for Alan Gross are fighting for their day in court after a New Jersey insurance company refused to cover any of his losses after he was jailed in Cuba in 2009.
On Nov. 16, Gross and his wife, Judith, sued Federal Insurance Co. for nearly $10 million in U.S. District Court in Maryland. The insurance company on Jan. 4 asked Judge Paul W. Grimm to dismiss the case, saying Gross was a subcontractor who was not covered under the policy that his employer, Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, had purchased.
Judge Paul W. Grimm
On Feb. 8, Gross's lawyers replied, saying the case shouldn't be thrown out before key evidence is presented. (See 33-page motion).
The lawyers said Gross was clearly covered, but now the insurance company is twisting the words of the policy that it wrote to try to avoid paying. They state:
Federal drafted the Wrongful Detention Policy, and it cannot now run from its own choice of words.
The suit asks for $9,999,000 in damages.

The insurance company argues that if Gross wants any losses paid, he must first go to DAI, of Bethesda, Md.
DAI disputes that it owes anything to Gross, who was an independent subcontractor. But if Gross is able to extract any money from DAI, the insurance company argues, then DAI is free to submit a claim to Federal.
That is a fallacious argument, Gross's lawyers say. They write:
Based on this flawed premise, Federal moves to dismiss ... asserting that Plaintiffs do not have standing to pursue claims under the Wrongful Detention Policy... Federal’s arguments are belied by the language, purpose, and function of the Wrongful Detention Policy... 
As a leading KRE (kidnap/ransom & extortion) insurer has stated: "the purpose and function of the KRE Policy is to compensate 'Insureds' or 'Insured Persons' for expenses incurred and paid by them if an insured event such as a kidnapping occurs." 
By nonetheless asking the Court to construe the Wrongful Detention Policy in its favor as a matter of law now, Federal improperly seeks to resolve the merits of the parties’ coverage dispute at the initial pleading stage, before any discovery. 
...Federal can obtain judgment now only if it can show that its interpretation of the Wrongful Detention Policy is the only reasonable one – a conclusion that is unsupportable and would be premature... 
Cuban authorities arrested Gross while he was carrying out a mission to install satellite Internet connections in three Cuban cities. He was working for DAI, which was under contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.
Gross was convicted of crimes against the Cuban state and received a 15-year jail sentence. His lawyers write:
At this time, there is no indication that Mr. Gross will return to his family within the next decade. Due to the wrongful detention of Mr. Gross in Cuba, Mr. and Mrs. Gross have incurred, and will continue to incur, significant economic losses. These economic losses include, but are not limited to:
  • more than $2 million in past legal expenses, in addition to future legal fees and related expenses;
  • past and future medical expenses for Mrs. Gross;
  • future medical expenses for Mr. Gross; and
  • personal financial losses.
Scott D. Gilbert
Lawyers handling the Gross case include Andrea Kay Hopkins, Barry I. Buchman, Emily P. Grim and Scott D. Gilbert. They are part of Gilbert LLP, a Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in strategic risk, litigation consulting and insurance recovery. Gilbert, the firm's founder, said in a statement:
The tragedy faced by the Gross family is horrific. What is mind boggling is that this never should have come to pass. The destruction of this family is the direct result of a project approved, overseen and administered by DAI and our Government that was flawed from conception and pursued with complete disregard for Mr. Gross’ safety and well-being. It is an utter disgrace.
The decision to put ideology and profits before safety has put a U.S. citizen who has significant health issues in a dangerous and increasingly hopeless situation and has left an American family devastated.

Note: This article was shared with the Center for Democracy in the Americas as part of a six-month collaborative project with non-profit group. See more about our collaboration here.

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