The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERICK SCULLIN, Chief Judge, District Page 2
*fn1 Defendant Lester D. Price has been deceased for more than
twenty years. Thus, Rule 25 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does
not apply, and, therefore, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims against
Defendant Price for lack of jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Robert Gonzalski commenced this action against Defendants
Prudential Insurance Company of America (hereinafter "Prudential" or "the
Company") and Lester Price on June 5, 2002, alleging state law claims of
fraud, breach of contract and negligence.*fn2
Plaintiff held three life insurance policies with Defendant Prudential,
which were purchased on March 15, 1959 ("1959 policy"), September 11,
1963 ("1963 policy") and February 16, 1967 ("1967 policy"), respectively.
On May 27, 1979, and after an unsuccessful attempt to borrow money on
his life insurance policies, Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Prudential
stating his dissatisfaction with the Company and that he was unable to
borrow money from his policies. Defendant Prudential responded in a July
3, 1979 letter, stating that two of Plaintiff's policies had already
lapsed for nonpayment of premiums but that they could be reinstated.
Plaintiff did not again contact Defendant Prudential regarding the
matter, however, until July 15, 1996, when he wrote a letter in which he
stated that he cancelled his three existing
policies after Defendant's agent convinced him to purchase a new
policy for $50,000.00 at an annual premium of $292.00. In addition,
Plaintiff stated that he later found out that the premium price for the $
50,000.00 policy was actually $1,099.00 per year and that no new $
50,000.00 policy was ever put into place for him. Defendant Prudential
responded to the concerns outlined in Plaintiff's July 15, 1996 letter on
August 20, 1996, and sent Plaintiff a proposal whereby it agreed either
to issue Plaintiff a new $50,000.00 life insurance policy for $292.00 a
year or to issue Plaintiff a $30,000.00 life insurance policy with no
payment of premiums in settlement of Plaintiff's complaints. Plaintiff
did not inform Defendant Prudential that its offer was unacceptable,
however, until August 13, 1997, approximately one year later.*fn4 On
June 23, 1998, Plaintiff contacted Defendant Prudential, requesting
copies of the $30,000.00 and $50,000.00 policies referenced in the
August 20, 1996 proposal. Defendant Prudential stated, in a letter dated
July 1, 1998, that, since Plaintiff had not accepted its proposal,
despite numerous opportunities and extensions to do so, the offer was
withdrawn and the file closed. Plaintiff then commenced the instant
lawsuit on June 5, 2002, approximately four years later.
Presently before the Court is Defendant Prudential's motion for summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract, fraud
and negligence are time-barred under their respective
statute-of-limitations periods.*fn6 Plaintiff, on the other hand,
argues that, since there was continual communication between the
parties and reliance on the part of Plaintiff, the statute-of-limitations
periods are tolled and, therefore, his claims are not time-barred.
A. Plaintiff's Breach of Contract Claim
Plaintiff purports to allege a breach of contract claim against
Defendant, claiming that Defendant's agent's actions amounted to a breach
of contract. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's agent
induced him to replace his three existing life insurance policies with a
new $50,000.00 policy for an annual premium of $292.00.*fn7 Moreover,
Plaintiff contends that Defendant altered the premium for the $50,000.00
policy to $1,099.00 and that no new $50,000.00 policy was ever put into
place at the agreed-upon premium price of $292.00.
Thus, based upon these allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff's
claim is more properly designated as a breach of contract in the
inducement claim. In order to establish a cause of action for inducing a
breach of contract, there must be (1) a valid contract between the
plaintiff and the other contracting party; (2) the defendant's knowledge
of that contract; (3) the defendant's intentional and improper
procurement of the breach of that contact; and (4) damages. See Forty
Exchange Co. v. Cohen, 125 Misc.2d 475, 481-82 (Civil Ct. N.Y.
County 1984) (citations omitted). Since a breach of contract in the
inducement cause of action is ...