By ERIC TUCKERAssociated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - A Maryland man who was suspected in the presumed death of his traveling companion in Aruba is suing to collect on a travel insurance policy issued in the woman's name.
Gary Giordano says in a lawsuit that AMEX Assurance Company is required to pay him $3.5 million under the terms of a policy purchased before last summer's trip. He says in the suit that his companion, Robyn Gardner, is presumed dead following her Aug. 2 disappearance and that the insurance company "has a duty to pay the full death benefit" to him.
Giordano, 51, was held for months in an Aruban jail on suspicion of being involved in Gardner's disappearance, and the insurance policy's existence caught the attention of investigators and prosecutors looking to build a case against him. But an Aruban judge ordered him released in November, saying prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to continue holding him.
Giordano, who has since returned home to Gaithersburg, Md., has denied wrongdoing and says Gardner was swept out to sea as the two snorkeled off the southern tip of Aruba. Her friends and family have expressed doubt about that explanation, saying they thought it was unlikely that she would have gone snorkeling in the first place.
Giordano says in the lawsuit that Gardner was covered under a July 27 policy that afforded $3.5 million in benefits in the event of accidental death or dismemberment. He says he is the named beneficiary under the policy but that the insurance company has refused his demands to pay.
Giordano told The Associated Press that the lawsuit speaks for itself and declined further comment. The suit was filed Thursday in Cook County, Ill., where AMEX Assurance is based.
"He's not running for public office," Scott Blumenshine, a lawyer for Giordano, said Monday. "He's a person who had a contract with another party, and we're just asking that that other party be held to their promise - which is to pay benefits."
American Express Co. spokeswoman Gail Wasserman declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but she said policyholders generally have to wait one year before filing a claim in instances in which a person is presumed dead but a body has not been located.
"When somebody is trying to collect a policy of this type and the insured person is missing, there is a 365-day period to file a claim," she said. "We would have not accepted a claim before the 365th day because that's the parameter of the policy."
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