Suppose it were legal to gamble on the time someone else is going to die. It is, if you invest in a life insurance product called a viatical. When the sister of a law firm client dies in her sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning because of an apparently malfunctioning hot water heater, third year law student Elliot Lerner is asked to determine whether anyone could be held responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit. As he looks into the circumstances surrounding the death, he learns about viatical settlements — investment products designed to provide terminally ill patients with immediate cash in exchange for the right to their life insurance payouts when they die. The amount investors are willing to pay for a patient’s death benefit depends on how much longer the patient is expected to live, because the investor must take over payment of the insurance premiums. If it looks like the investor’s gamble is not going to pay off as planned because the patient is living too long, and the cost of premium payments has exceeded expectations, there’s only one way to eliminate that expense.