John Hancock Settlement
Click here for documents relating to the John Hancock Settlement
On July 7, 2004, KOL attorneys, along with co-counsel, initiated a ground-breaking class action lawsuit against John Hancock Life Insurance for its company-wide policy prohibiting the sale of life insurance to African-Americans in the early to mid-20th century. The lawsuit confronted John Hancock’s practice of offering African-Americans substandard and seriously inferior life insurance products when it did sell insurance to African-Americans. These products are known as industrial or monthly debit policies and had little value. The named Plaintiff is an African-American woman whose mother had purchased life insurance policies from John Hancock in 1940s and 1950s. The lawsuit also alleged that John Hancock fraudulently concealed its practices from policy holders and from the public and that the plaintiff and the class were only recently able to discover the discrimination even though it occurred in the past.
After several years of litigation, in February 2009, a landmark $24.4 million settlement was reached in the case and on February 10, 2009, United States District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton granted preliminary approval of the settlement which is on behalf of behalf of African American individuals who are purchasers, owners, insured or beneficiaries of industrial weekly life insurance policies or monthly debit policies by
John Hancock prior to 1959.
The settlement establishes a class monetary fund of $24.4 million, plus interest. The settlement calls for a jointly selected Special Master to oversee disbursement of funds to class members who will receive up to $1,200 per affected policy. Any unused funds will be donated to organizations that predominately benefit African Americans.