Life insurance fraud? Do you recoup this claim?Article added by Stephen Forman on July 25, 2013
Stephen D. Forman (LTCA)

Stephen Forman

Bellevue, WA

Joined: February 07, 2011

I first heard of this story while enjoying drinks on the patio with friends one weekend, and before we were through debating it, I said, “Let’s put it to the experts on ProducersWEB!”

My party was discussing a Friday night segment on ABC’s “20/20” in which a husband of 34 years and father of two vanished without a trace. These missing persons stories are both compelling and frequently tragic — although they may morph into homicides or suicides, it can take years of off-and-on detective work to unravel the truth. In the meantime, families often say, “It’s the not knowing that’s the worst.”

The disappearance

He’d been a wealthy and successful real estate agent living among luxury homes and scenic golf courses, but police in two states and private eyes could turn up nothing but dead ends. There didn’t seem to be any logical reason for Eric Myers to “throw it all away” — he’d grown up as both the popular class president and class clown. His storybook marriage was complemented first by daughters Erin and Kirsten, then by three adopted boys from Vietnam.

When wife Anne brought up the subject of going back to college to finish her degree, it rocked Eric’s deeply-held Christian views of marriage. Searching through the Bible for any consolation, he felt trapped, yet stayed married as “the Christian thing to do.” They spoke of divorce, and when he left for a real estate seminar in San Diego in 1991, he never returned.

At the time of Myers’ disappearance, his daughters were eight and 10 years old — and were devastated. Daughter Kirsten remembers “screaming that I wanted him to come back.” She cried herself to sleep every night for weeks.

The return

After being declared legally dead by his family and missing for nearly two decades, Eric Myers decided to come back. If he thought he’d be welcomed with open arms, he miscalculated. While his own parents forgave him, his return rocked the world of his ex-wife and daughters, who’d used the passage of time to find peace and happiness in their lives.

But first, where had he been?

Alleging that he was robbed in San Diego, he said he fled in despair with a few hundred dollars in his pocket south on a bus to Cabo San Lucas. He needed total escape from his Christian life back home, which held a burdensome secret — dating back to his time as an elementary schoolchild, he was drawn to members of the same sex.

By age 13, he felt the need to create a fake persona to stifle those feelings — that of a fervent evangelical. Having a “girlfriend” was supposed to help him feel how he was “supposed to feel.” It dominoed into a picture-book marriage and family, but Myers still wanted to be with men.
The panicky escape to Cabo San Lucas was only meant to be temporary. But a few weeks turned into several months, until he headed to Palm Springs without so much as a phone call home. There, he met and connected with a Canadian named Sean. Myers was able to take odd jobs that didn’t require an ID, and he began traveling with his new partner.

Meanwhile, his family endured the loss of a husband and father. Five years later, in 1996, Myers was declared legally dead, at which point his family cashed in a life insurance policy worth $800,000. The money was placed in a trust for the benefit of his two daughters, Erin and Kirsten.

The claim

“There was never any plan to come back, just like there was never any plan to leave. It just happened,” said Myers.

As soon as Liberty Life learned that Eric Myers was alive, they sued the Myers family for $800,000 plus interest. They won, and the family is now appealing.

The verdict is yet another reason Myers’ return has ravaged his family emotionally. Says daughter Kirsten, now 30 with two children of her own, “It almost hurt more to have him come back than it did for him to go in the first place.”

What do you think?

Should Liberty Life have prevailed in recovering life insurance proceeds on an insured declared “legally dead”? Should there be a statute of limitations on such cases? Should the children sue to recover the $800,000 from their father? Is Eric Myers sympathetic or callous?
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