The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAWRENCE KAHN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff Carol B. Speziale commenced the instant action
against Defendant National Life Insurance Company asserting
claims of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, equitable
estoppel, and a violation of N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349 arising out
of Defendant's denial of Plaintiff's claim under a life insurance
policy issued to her deceased husband, Thomas Speziale. By
Decision & Order dated March 19, 2003, Plaintiff's claims under N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349
and for punitive damages were dismissed. Presently before the
Court is: (1) Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its
entirety; and (2) Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment
seeking a determination of liability as a matter of law.
Thomas Speziale purchased a term life insurance policy from
Defendant with an inception date of March 22, 1999. Def.'s Ex. D.
Plaintiff was the named beneficiary. The policy had the following
provisions pertinent to the instant dispute:
Entire Contract. This policy and a copy of the
application which is attached . . . are the entire
contract. . . . Any change of this contract must be
written and may be made only by one of our authorized
officers. . . .
Payment of Premiums. The First Premium and its
interval are shown in the Data Section. It is due on
the Policy Date. Each later premium is due at the end
of the interval of time for which the preceding
premium was paid. . . .
Lapse and Grace Period. If any premium due is not
paid on or before the day it is due, this policy
shall lapse as of such date. All our liability shall
then cease. However, a grace period of thirty-one
days from the due date, during which the insurance
shall stay in force, shall be allowed for the payment
of every premium except the first. . . .
Reinstatement. If this policy has lapsed, upon
request it may be reinstated within five years of the
date it lapsed. However, it may not be reinstated
after the Final Expiration Date. We will require
proof to our satisfaction that the insured is
insurable. We will also require the payment of:
1. the premium for the period from the date of
reinstatement to the next premium due date; plus
2. the lesser of:
a. half of all premiums for the period from the date
of lapse to the date of reinstatement; or b. the premiums for the one year period prior to the
date of reinstatement.
Death Benefit.. . . . We will pay the Death Benefit
to the Beneficiary when we receive at our Home Office
due proof that the Insured died while this policy was
in force. . . .
Def.'s Ex. D. Thomas Speziale opted to make premium payments on a
monthly basis. Id.
By letter dated June 1, 1999, Defendant wrote Mr. Speziale
advising him that the policy lapsed due to non-payment of
premiums. Def.'s Ex. G. The letter read, in part, that
since the 31 day grace period has expired, your
policy has lapsed. The policy may be reinstated
without any interest penalty or evidence of
insurability by paying the "amount due" while the
Insured is still living and within 62 days of the due
date. Therefore, payment of $209.43 for the April
premium must be submitted by June 22, 1999 . . . or
reinstatement requirements will be necessary.
Id. It appears that Mr. Speziale made the necessary payments to
bring his premiums up to date. Def.'s Ex. F.
By letter dated March 22, 2000, Defendant wrote Mr. Speziale
concerning unpaid premiums.*fn1
The letter read, in part, as
THANK YOU FOR YOUR RECENT PAYMENT. ALTHOUGH YOUR
REMITTANCE WAS RECEIVED WITH THE MARCH PREMIUM
NOTICE, OUR RECORDS SHOW THAT THE FEBRUARY PREMIUM
WAS UNPAID. CONSEQUENTLY WE HAVE APPLIED YOUR
REMITTANCE TO THE UNPAID PREMIUM. . . . IN ORDER TO BRING YOUR CONTRACT TO A CURRENT STATUS,
WE ARE ENCLOSING ANOTHER PREMIUM NOTICE WITH A RETURN
ENVELOPE TO FACILITATE PAYMENT. . . .
IF THIS INFORMATION DOES NOT AGREE WITH YOUR RECORDS,
PLEASE NOTIFY US AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE.
Def.'s Ex. H. Defendant sent Mr. Speziale a similar letter dated
April 19, 2000.*fn2
That letter provided, in part, that
"[a]lthough your remittance was received with the April premium
notice, our records show that the March premium was unpaid."
Def.'s Ex. I.
Mr. Speziale died on February 1, 2002. The next day, February
2, 2002, Mrs. Speziale signed a check payable to Defendant in the
amount of $209.43.*fn3 Defendant received the check sometime
thereafter. Plaintiff also provided Defendant with notice of the
Defendant established a claim file and assigned the matter to
Caroline Buswell. Upon her review of the file, Buswell determined
that the policy was paid through December 22, 2001 and that there
were $418.86 in unpaid premiums (i.e., two months of unpaid
premiums). Buswell also determined that the policy had a
thirty-one day grace period and that the final payment on the
policy was made after Mr. Speziale's death. Buswell concluded
that the policy had lapsed prior to Mr. Speziale's death and,
therefore, no payments were due. Plaintiff denies that the
premiums were in arrears and that the policy had lapsed.
By letter dated February 15, 2002, Buswell informed Plaintiff
that "the . . . policy was not inforce [sic] on the date of your
husband's death. On February 1, 2002 the paid to date on the
policy was December 22, 2001. This paid to date was not within
the thirty-one day grace period. We received a premium payment on February 5, 2002, . . . the check
is dated after your husband's death." Def.'s Ex. M. Defendant
also provided Plaintiff's attorney with a summary of all premium
payments made by Mr. Speziale. Defendant returned to Plaintiff
the February 2, 2002 premium payment.
Plaintiff then commenced the instant action seeking payment
under the terms of the policy. Defendant now moves for summary
judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the
Complaint in its entirety. Plaintiff cross-moves for summary
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary
judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment
as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In applying this standard,
courts must "`resolve all ambiguities, and credit all factual
inferences that could rationally be drawn, in favor of the party
opposing summary judgment.'" Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246,
251 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Cifra v. General Electric Co.,
252 F.3d 205, 216 (2d Cir. 2001)). Once the moving party meets its
initial burden by demonstrating that no material fact exists for
trial, the nonmovant "must do more than simply show that there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)
(citations omitted). Rather, the nonmovant "must come forth with
evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in her
favor." Brown, ...