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State Farm pays $65 million to settle life insurance overcharge lawsuit

Exterior of State Farm headquarters
Emily Bollinger
State Farm Insurance is based in Bloomington.

Checks are going out in a $65 million settlement of a class action lawsuit against State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company.

Attorneys had accused State Farm in a federal court in Missouri of overcharging on policies. The settlement involves about 450,000 policy holders who bought universal life insurance from the Bloomington-based company between 1986 and 1993.

State Farm allegedly used outdated mortality tables developed for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners by the Society of Actuaries that reflected shorter lifespans for people than is the true average in newer official tables. That means premiums would be higher than they should have been.

“Defendants’ conduct has caused, and continues to cause, material harm to Plaintiffs and the Class by wrongfully draining monies they have accumulated in the Cash Values of their Policies. Every unauthorized dollar taken from the Plaintiffs’ and Class members’ Cash Values is one less dollar that accumulates with interest and that can be used to: pay future premiums; increase the death benefit; use as collateral for policy loans; or withdraw as cash,” said the plaintiffs in the suit.

Another allegation was that State Farm improperly deducted expenses from the cash value of policies. And the plaintiffs claimed State Farm violated the law by not telling policy holders, or even its own agents, how it computed the cost of insurance.

The settlement of the case filed in federal court in Missouri also applied to related cases in Tennessee and South Carolina.

“We are pleased the court has granted final approval of settlement in the nationwide cost of insurance class action litigation known as Niewinski v. State Farm Life Insurance Company and the State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company. The settlement involves 86000 series Universal Life Insurance policies issued by the company from 1986 to 1993. The settlement is not an admission that State Farm did anything wrong,” said the company in a statement.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs will get a third of the settlement amount plus expenses, or more than $22 million. The primary plaintiffs will get $25,000 plus an amount based on how much they were overcharged. The judge in the case said members of the class will get about 71% of the amount they overpaid. That's an average of about $100, though actual amounts will vary according to an agreed-on formula.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.