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Estate of Piper v. Metropolitan Tower Life Insurance Co.

August 10, 2009

ESTATE OF ALEXANDER R. PIPER III; AND MARTHA PIPER, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
METROPOLITAN TOWER LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



OPINION AND ORDER

The Estate of Alexander R. Piper III and Martha Piper ("Mrs. Piper" or "MP," and together with the Estate, "Plaintiffs"), bring this civil action asserting claims of breach of contract, negligence and unjust enrichment against Metropolitan Tower Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") in connection with MetLife's denial of Plaintiffs' claim for benefits under a life insurance policy that covered Mrs. Piper's spouse, Alexander R. Piper ("Mr. Piper" or "Decedent," and together with Mrs. Piper, "the Pipers"). The Court has jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court has reviewed thoroughly and considered carefully all of the parties' submissions and, for the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following material facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. Defendant issued policy number 876 115 025 UL (the "Policy") on Decedent's life, effective February 1, 1987, in the face amount of $391,000. (Affirmation of Ethan Leonard ("Leonard Affirm."), Ex. A, Copy of Policy at 1.) Decedent was employed by Cohen, Cohn and Duffy at the time, and the Policy was issued to the Cohen, Cohn and Duffy Defined Benefit Trust ("CCDDBT") as owner. (Leonard Affirm. Ex. B, MP Dep. 87: 12-24.) On or about May 1, 1988, the face amount of the Policy was increased from $391,000 to $473,000. (MP Aff. ¶ 5.) Ownership of the Policy was assigned from CCDDBT to Decedent on or about January 22, 1991. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff Martha Piper was designated as the sole beneficiary of the Policy. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 5.)

Under the terms of the Policy, Defendant agreed to provide life insurance until the Final Date of the Policy, provided that premiums were sufficient to keep the Policy in force. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 6, Ex. A at ML PIPER 00008.) The Policy specifications page, which follows the cover page of the Policy document, displays the following legend in capital letters:

THIS POLICY PROVIDES LIFE INSURANCE COVERAGE UNTIL THE FINAL DATE IF SUFFICIENT PREMIUMS ARE PAID. THE PLANNED PREMIUM SHOWN BELOW MAY NEED TO BE INCREASED TO KEEP THIS POLICY AND COVERAGE IN FORCE.

PLANNED PREMIUM OF $3097.46 - PAYABLE SEMI-ANNUALLY. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 7, Ex. A at ML PIPER 00009.) The Policy, as a Flexible Premium Life Insurance Policy, further provided:

We will send premium notices,..., according to the planned premium shown on page 3. You may skip planned premium payments or change their frequency and amount if the accumulation fund is large enough to keep your policy in force.

(Stowe Aff. ¶ 8, Ex. A at ML PIPER 000014.) In the "Grace Period" section, the Policy provided:

If the accumulation fund on any monthly anniversary, minus any policy loan and loan interest, is less than the monthly deduction for that month, there will be a grace period of 61 days after that anniversary to pay an amount that will cover the monthly deduction. We will send you a notice at the start of the grace period. We will also send a notice to any assignee on our records.

If we do not receive a sufficient amount by the end of the grace period, your policy will then end without value. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 9, Ex. A at ML PIPER 000015.) In the "Reinstatement" section, the Policy provided:

If the grace period has ended and you have not paid the required premium and have not surrendered your policy for its cash value, you may reinstate this policy while the insured is alive if you: 1. Ask for reinstatement within 3 years after the end of the grace period... (Stowe Aff. ¶ 10, Ex. A at ML PIPER 000015.) In the "Notice" section, the Policy speaks to address changes as follows:

When you write to us, please give us your name, address and policy number. Please notify us promptly of any changes. We will write to you at your last known address. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 11, Ex. A at ML PIPER 000031.)

From the time the Policy was issued until January 1991, CCDDBT paid the premiums on the Policy. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 12, Ex. B at ML PIPER 00397-414.) When the Policy was assigned to Decedent in January 1991, the Pipers became responsible for the premium payments. (Stowe Aff. ¶ 13, Ex. A at ML PIPER 00024.) On the assignment form, Decedent listed his address as P.O. Box 327, South Egremont, Massachusetts 01258. (Id.) This address was used by Defendant for sending correspondence, including all required notices (premium bills and annual statements), to Decedent until July 18, 2000, when Defendant processed an address change request received from ...


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