2007-12-14 / Community

Rockaway Woman Is 'Saved'By Spitzer

By Nicholas Briano

Twenty-seven years ago, Cheryl Danto was walking across the street when she was hit by a car that sent her flying over the hood, broke her bones, ruptured her spleen, and caused her heart to temporarily stop. She was later awarded a settlement that required monthly annuity-type payments. She never dreamed that the money awarded for her pain and suffering might ever fail to reach her hands.

However, this is what nearly happened. So, Danto was relieved when she recently got a call from a state official telling her that she did not have to worry about losing any of her payments.

Danto, 35, of Rockaway Park, was among a group of personal injury award recipients who were totally unaware that the insurance company responsible for their award payments, Executive Life Insurance Company of New York, effectively went out of business in 1991.

She had been receiving payments to make her whole for the traumatic accident, which scarred her when she was only eight years old, for most of her life. She was also unaware that after Executive Life went out of business, the payments were assumed by a state agency, The New York State Liquidation Bureau. Finally, she had no idea that the Bureau was concerned that deficits in funding could jeopardize these payments.

Last week, Governor Spitzer announced that the Bureau has implemented a plan that will secure payments from injury settlements and pensions to over 11,000 potential victims throughout the state.

"When I heard what was going on I was very scared because I had no idea the funds would run out," Danto said. "It is a scary thought to even imagine having my payments stop." She added, "I was unaware that there was even any sort of glitch or any type of problem that could cause this."

Danto, the mother of a three-yearold son, continued to say that she wouldn't know what to do, considering that she takes into account the settlement with every month's budget.

"This supplements my income," she

said. "This check covers my rent every month, so I am fortunate the government was able to help."

She is fortunate. On December 4, Governor Spitzer held a press conference, which Danto attended, and announced that a deal had been reached to protect the annuities and payments from pension funds owed by Executive Life.

In 1991, the Bureau had taken over the distribution of payments owed by Executive Life, because the company was no longer capable of keeping up with their obligations and was on the brink of going out of business. However, once the state took over making the payouts, many of the victims remained unaware that Executive Life was even in financial trouble.

According to Erin Carney, spokesperson for the Bureau, the problem was reviewed by Governor Spitzer's new administration and a solution was found before all of the funds from Executive Life disappeared.

"Everyone here worked really hard to make sure that the money gets to all the rightful owners," Carney said.

According to Carney, after Executive Life was taken over by the Bureau in 1991, nothing was done to address the depletion of their assets and the problem went neglected through the years of the Pataki administration.

Shortly after Spitzer took office, the Bureau reviewed the status of the assets of Executive Life to ensure that the 11,000 beneficiaries, approximately 90 percent of whom were accident victims, would not see their payments affected.

It was one of the top priorities of the new administration, considering the amount of the deficit and the number of victims affected. According to reports, if nothing had been done to remedy the problems caused by the failure of Executive Insurance, the payments to victims could have run out by 2008.

Danto is just relieved that everything is settled and that she can move on without any worries.

"This is a real weight lifted off my shoulders," Danto said. "After I found out about this problem, they had me really worried for a few days about what would happen."

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