Convicted Kidnapper of South Dakota Insurance Executive Sues Insurer

April 22, 2010

Eric Castaneira, who went to prison in for kidnapping an executive at South Dakota-based Midland National Life Insurance Co. in 1991, has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $500,000 from the company, plus punitive damages that would be given away.

The lawsuit alleges in part that Midland has failed to abide by a settlement agreement that includes a $166,500 payment to Castaneira and language that they’ve settled “all disputes and differences.”

Midland has not yet filed its answer in court but said in a prepared statement that it’s the latest of several lawsuits Castaneira has filed against the company.

“We disagree with Mr. Castaneira’s version of the events alleged in this latest complaint,” the company said. “The record regarding Mr. Castaneira’s prior lawsuits and criminal conviction speaks for itself.”

Castaneira was an independent insurance agent in Pennsylvania who said the Sioux Falls-based company canceled his sales contract and withheld thousands of dollars in bonuses after he began questioning the company’s sales practices in 1989.

The lawsuit says the company ignored his requests to acknowledge and correct problems and that he drove to Sioux Falls in September 1991 planning to commit suicide in Midland’s headquarters “to draw attention to Midland’s behavior.”

An armed Castaneira holed up in an office with a company vice president who was released unharmed after eight hours. Castaneira surrendered four hours later.

Castaneira filed the federal court complaint April 16 as his own attorney. It asks for $166,500, plus $500,000 for other real and emotional damages. He also wants a jury to award punitive damages that he says would be given to the United Services Organization and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The lawsuit says Midland has defaulted on the terms of a mutual release signed by both parties Dec. 30, 2003. The lawsuit lays out what Castaneira alleges were efforts to damage him financially and professionally and to restrict his ability to recover commissions and resolve other claims against the company.

Castaneira pleaded guilty to kidnapping and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, with 30 years suspended. Former Gov. Bill Janklow later commuted the sentence to 20 years. Castaneira was released on parole in 2002.

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