Saturday, August 23, 2014

Only in America - Strange Story of the Cigars Insurance Fraud

Original Story

A man from Charlotte, North Carolina, having purchased a case of very expensive cigars, insured them against, among other things, fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile, the man filed a claim against the insurance company, stating that the cigars were lost «in a series of small fires».

The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion. The man sued - and won.

In delivering the ruling the judge, agreeing that the claim was frivolous, stated nevertheless that the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure against fire, without defining what it considered to be «unacceptable fire» , and was obliged to pay the claim. Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he had lost «in the fires».

After he cashed the check, however, the company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson. With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

True or False

Trying to determine if the story is true or false, we are coming to the conclusion that there are at least three problems with the expressed logic.

Problem One

Insurance companies would never write a policy on cigars without specifying that if they were smoked they were not liable. Insurance companies, through their previous experience, tend to close every loop hole possible from customers that may seek to commit fraud. They would not leave themselves open to a lawsuit like this.

Problem Two

A judge would have thrown the case out of court because the man said he smoked them. This case does not even have merit, which is required to have a case heard by a judge, unless the insurance company really did not specify for what type of fire they would pay. Even then, the basis of the story is essentially silly and likely would never have made it through the entire court system.

Problem Three

A man would not be sentenced for arson for smoking a cigar. The courts would also not sentence a man to prison for smoking his own cigars if no damage to anything else occurred. Although to anyone reading the story, the sentencing may seem like he got what he deserved for insurance fraud, it wouldn't really happen in a court of law. He also could not be accused of arson for smoking his own cigars in the first place. Arson is defined as setting fire to buildings, woodland areas, vehicles, or other property with the intent to cause damage.

The Cigar Song

In 2003 the legend was made into a song and recorded by Brad Paisley.

"The Cigar Song"

Well I'm a sucker for fine Cuban cigars
The problem is I can't afford 'em
But last year I went and got myself a whole box
And just to be safe I insured 'em

I took out a policy against fire and theft
And then I hurried home
With a fifty-cent lighter I sat on my back steps
And I smoked 'em one by one

Two weeks later I went to see that insurance man
And I handed in my claim
With a straight face I told him that through a series of small fires
They'd all gone up in flames

[2nd Chorus]
They reviewed my case and they had no choice
But to pay me for what I'd done
And I took that check and bought a whole new box
And I smoked 'em one by one

Two weeks later this detective shows up
Tells me that company's pressin' charges
One speedy trial later they locked me up
On twenty-four separate counts of arson

[3rd Chorus]
And now I sit and I stare at a blank brick wall
Lookin' back on what I've done
To pass the time I've got some ten-cent cigars
And I smoke 'em one by one
Yeah, I smoke 'em one by one

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