Iris Jamahl Dunkle 3 p.m., June 21
Heath Bell claims insurance salesman ripped him off
Former Padre says local agent talked him into too big a policy, didn't disclose costs
Major League Baseball All-Star and former Padres closer Heath Bell says in a lawsuit filed Tuesday (September 17) that he was duped into buying an extravagant $25 million life insurance policy by San Diego resident Jason Huntley, an agent with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance.
Huntley was referred to Bell by his former financial advisor, William Crafton Jr., who recently filed for bankruptcy amidst a flurry of lawsuits alleging fraud by other professional athletes with whom he had a relationship.
Bell originally agreed to purchase a $14 million whole life policy in September 2012, which in itself “exceeded what Bell’s family would reasonably need in the event of his untimely death,” per the complaint. “Worse, at Huntley’s insistence, Bell purchased an insurance rider that increased the death benefit to approximately $25 million.”
Bell’s lawyer goes on to call the premiums he was asked to pay for the policy “exorbitant,” with an $848,000 initial payment followed by $170,000 payments due annually. Over the pitcher’s expected lifespan (Bell is 35 now), those premiums would total over $10 million.
The Bell family claims they received little to no advice on determining a reasonable amount of insurance to obtain, were rushed into signing paperwork without having its details explained to either Heath or wife Nicole, and weren’t even aware of the $848,000 initial payment until they noticed that it had been withdrawn from their investment account. The complaint goes on to allege that they weren’t informed that Huntley’s commission on the deal was close to 50 percent of the amount collected, and the $9 million rider he pushed increased his payout by several hundred thousand dollars.
Bell and his family trust are seeking a refund of their premiums (a small portion of which was recovered when the cancelled the policy), as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The plaintiffs are represented by Gregory Aldisert of the Kinsella, Weitzman, Isser, Kump & Aldisert firm in Santa Monica.