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Friday, February 19, 2010


Woman finds 32-year-old $17,500 check

Old check for $17,500 found in Lauderhill woman’s nightstand drawer

Insurance settlement was for 1976 accident under Brooklyn Bridge

Rafael A. Olmeda

Sun Sentinel

7:58 p.m. EST

February 18, 2010

LAUDERHILL - Barbara Cosgrove doesn't specifically remember who gave her the envelope in late January 1978. And she doesn't specifically remember tucking it away, unopened, in the bottom drawer of the nightstand in her bedroom.

All she knows for sure is that, 32 years later, she found the envelope, its edges eaten away by time, a slip of paper still inside waiting for her signature. It was a check for $17,500. The date on it was Jan. 23, 1978, and it was void if not cashed within 60 days.

"I've gone to that drawer a thousand times," said Cosgrove, now 85 and living in Lauderhill. "Why didn't I find it sooner?"

The money was from an insurance settlement stemming from a bizarre accident under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge on April 1, 1976.

As Cosgrove recalled Thursday, the bridge was being painted, and a tarp was placed above the road so paint would not fall on passing cars. But after a week of heavy rains, the tarp gave way and sent water crashing down 200 feet onto the Lincoln Mark IV she had just purchased three days earlier.

The water smashed the hood and the front windshield, and Cosgrove said her screams were so loud she damaged her own eardrums. She had the presence of mind to cut off the ignition before passing out.

After a brief hospital stay, Cosgrove and her insurance company filed a claim against the Belt Painting Co., which was doing the work on the bridge. Less than two years later, Cosgrove got a check from the company's insurance provider, but she didn't realize it and put it away in a drawer.

Since she received the check, Cosgrove moved from West End, N.J., to Miami Beach and finally to Lauderhill, where she's resided for the past 15 years. She divorced her husband in the mid-1980s and got the furniture in the settlement. When a friend asked to see a picture of her ex-husband, she went digging through the drawer and found the envelope.

Cosgrove said she gave up on the settlement as a lost cause later in the same year. She wrote a letter to her lawyer in July 1978 asking him to pursue the settlement, but she never sent it. "I never knew for sure that there was even going to be a settlement," she said.

Cosgrove isn't sure she'll ever get the money. The company that wrote the check, The Home Insurance Companies of Manchester, N.H., was declared insolvent and was liquidated in June 2004. Tom Kober, the liquidation's chief claim officer, said Thursday he will send Cosgrove a claim form, but he couldn't predict whether a 32-year-old claim would be honored ahead of other claims against the company.

It's also not clear where the money has been sitting. The accident was in New York, the insurance company was in New Hampshire, and Cosgrove lived in New Jersey at the time the check was sent to her. Each of those states has an office that deals with unclaimed funds and none had a record Thursday of $17,500 waiting for Cosgrove.

"When the money wasn't deposited, why shouldn't they have followed up and said ‘Why haven't you cashed the check?' " Cosgrove wondered.

While she doesn't have any pressing financial needs and has no children, Cosgrove said the money would provide a more comfortable financial cushion for herself.


If the money is not in the states unclaimed funds she will need a good luck on getting that.
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