March 2, 1979
MARCELLE HOCQUET BATTIN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
THE LINCOLN NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Present: HON. WILLIAM H. TIMBERS, HON. THOMAS J. MESKILL Circuit Judges, HON. RICHARD OWEN United States District Judge Sitting by Designation
This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of record from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and was argued by counsel.
ON CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, it is now hereby ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the judgment of said District Court be and it hereby is affirmed on the opinion of Judge Motley dated September 21, 1978.
The district court granted the insurer summary judgment on appellant's claim for death benefits under a lapsed life insurance policy. Appellant argues that the company should be estopped from asserting the nonpayment because of its alleged failure to give notice that premiums were due.
Judge Motley was correct in applying Massachusetts law to the case. The insurance policy was written there. Most of the premiums were paid there during its term. Although appellant and her deceased husband, the insured, moved to New Jersey shortly before his death, their Massachusetts residence is their last address on file with the appellee. On the interests analysis, since New York presumably would apply the law of Massachusetts, see generally, Babcock v. Jackson, 12 N.Y.2d 473, 240 N.Y.S.2d 743, 191 N.E.2d 279 (1963), the district court below was bound to do so as well. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487 (1941); Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938).
Massachusetts law clearly allows the insurer to cancel a policy for nonpayment without giving any notice, even if it had been its practice to do so in the past. Pierce v. Massachusetts Accident Co., 303 Mass. 506, 22 N.E.2d 78 (1939). Although this may be said to lead to a harsh result, it flows necessarily from the more lax regulation of insurance by statute that exists in Massachusetts. Compare Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 175, § 187C with N.Y. Insurance Law § 151 (McKinney 1966 and Supp. 1978). Accordingly, the question of whether the notice was sent is not material. This case was proper for summary judgment.
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