United States District Court, E.D. New York
DAVED BLAU, Trustee of the Zupnick Family Trust 2008 C, Plaintiff,
ALLIANZ LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.
David Blau, Trustee of the Zupnick Family Trust 2008 C (the
"Trust"), brings this action against Defendant
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America
("Allianz North America"), seeking declaratory
relief concerning a life insurance policy issued by Allianz
North America of which the Trust is owner and beneficiary.
Plaintiff commenced this action in New York Supreme Court,
County of Kings, on April 3, 2014. (N.Y. Sup. Ct Compl. (Dkt.
1-1) at ECF p.7.) Defendant removed the case to federal court
on May 22, 2014. (Not. of Removal (Dkt. 1).) On September 2,
2014, Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim on which relief could be granted pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Mot to Dismiss
(Dkt. 14).) This court granted Defendant's motion on
August 17, 2015, but directed Plaintiff to file an amended
complaint addressing certain deficiencies in his original
complaint. (Mem. & Order (Dkt. 17).) On September 18,
2015, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking the
instant declaratory relief. (Am. Compl. (Dkt. 18).) The
parties attempted to mediate their dispute, though the court
granted both parties leave to move for summary judgment if
they were unable to resolve their dispute through
extrajudicial means. (Nov. 11, 2016, Minute Entry.) On
January 13, 2017, the parties set a joint briefing schedule
while still hoping to resolve their dispute by mediation.
(Jan. 13, 2017, Letter (Dkt. 37).) On May 12, 2017, both
parties filed their fully briefed cross-motions for summary
judgment. (Pl. Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl. Mot.") (Dkt.
40); Pl. Mem. in Supp. of Pl. Mot. ("Pl. Mem.")
(Dkt. 40-2); Def. Mem. in Opp'n to Pl. Mot. ("Def.
Opp'n") (Dkt. 41); Pl. Reply to Def. Opp'n
("Pl. Reply") (Dkt. 42); Def. Mot. for Summ. J.
("Def. Mot.") (Dkt. 43); Def. Mem. in Supp. of Def.
Mot. ("Def. Mem.") (Dkt. 43-1); Pl. Mem. in
Opp'n to Def. Mot. ("Pl. Opp'n") (Dkt. 44);
Def. Reply to Pl. Opp'n ("Def. Reply") (Dkt.
reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED
and Plaintiffs motion is DENIED.
alleges that on or about April 7, 2007, Defendant issued a
life insurance policy with a face value of $8, 000, 000 on
the life of Dora Zupnick (the "Policy"). (Am.
Compl. ¶ 4.) The Trust is both the owner and beneficiary
of the Policy. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Plaintiff is
the trustee of the Trust. (Id.¶ 1.) Plaintiff
became trustee of the Trust on April 10, 2010. (Def. Mem. at
5.) Zupnick was alive as of the filing of the amended
complaint, and therefore no demand on the Policy has been
made. (Am. Compl. ¶ 61.)
time to time, Defendant sent notices to the Trust informing
it of premium payments that had come due. (Id.
¶¶ 10-19.) The Trust would then pay the required
premium to ensure that the Policy did not lapse. (See Pl.
Resp. to Def. Rule 56.1 Statement (Dkt. 44-1) ¶ 20.) The
most recent such payment made by the Trust was in February
2011. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.) On March 10, 2011, Defendant
sent a letter to the Trust (the "March Grace
Notice") informing it once again that the premium
payment was due. (See Def. Mem. at 7; Def. Reply in
Supp. of Def. Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 38.) The March Grace
Notice said that the Trust owed $71, 900.74 in premium
payments and that the Policy had entered grace. (See
Def. Reply in Supp. of Def. Rule 56.1 Statement (Dkt. 46-1)
¶ 38.) Over the next month (the "Grace
Period"), neither Plaintiff nor the Trust made any
payment in response to the March Grace Notice. (See
Def. Rule 56.1 Statement (Dkt. 53-2) ¶ 37.) On April 9,
2011, Defendant sent a lapse notice informing the Trust that
the Policy had lapsed. (Am. Compl. ¶ 24.) That same
date, Defendant sent another letter (the "April Grace
Notice") informing the Trust that it owed $34, 726.67 in
premium payments. (Id. ¶ 21.) No other
communications were sent in reference to the April Grace
alleges that Defendant considers the Policy to have lapsed
and seeks a contrary declaration from this court "that
the Policy is in full force and effect and has been
continuously in full force and effect since the Policy was
issued without any lapses in coverage." (Id.
their cross-motions for summary judgment, the parties present
the following arguments:
moves this court to declare the Policy "in good
standing." (Pl. Mem. at 16.) Plaintiff contends that the
March Grace Notice should be declared invalid because it
demanded a higher dollar amount than what the Trust needed to
pay to avoid lapse, featured the incorrect due date for
payment, and contained two addresses for where payment should
be sent. (Id. at 11-16.)
seeks a judgment as a matter of law on the grounds that the
Policy lapsed when Plaintiff failed to make timely payments.
(Def. Mem. at 9.) Defendant bases its argument on four
principal points. First, it argues that the Policy lapsed
when Plaintiff failed to make payments before the expiration
of the Grace Period. (Id. at 10-15.) Second, it
claims that, even if the March Grace Notice was invalid, the
Policy lapsed after a year of nonpayment pursuant to New York
law. (Id. at 15-18.) Third, Defendant construes
Plaintiffs failure to pay premiums as a repudiation or
abandonment of the Policy, leading to the conclusion that
Plaintiff forfeited his rights in the Policy. (Id.
at 19-20.) Finally, Defendant submits that Plaintiffs claims
are barred by the statute of limitations and that the Policy
could only be reinstated within a three-year period that
already ended. (Id. at 21-22.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
must grant summary judgment when "the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A 'material' fact is one
capable of influencing the case's outcome under governing
substantive law, and a 'genuine' dispute is one as to
which the evidence would permit a reasonable juror to find
for the party opposing the motion." Figueroa v.
Mazza, 825 F.3d 89, 98 (2d Cir. 2016) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). "The movant may discharge this burden by
showing that the non-moving party has 'fail[ed] to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.'"
Lantheus Med. Imaging. Inc. v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co.,
255 F.Supp.3d 443, 451 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 28, 2015) (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).
"'The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence'
in support of the non-movant will be insufficient to defeat a
summary judgment motion." Transflo Terminal Servs.,
Inc. v. Brooklyn Res. Recovery. Inc., 248 F.Supp.3d 397,
399 (E.D.N.Y. 2017) (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
determining whether an issue is genuine, '[t]he
inferences to be drawn from the underlying affidavits,
exhibits, interrogatory answers, and depositions must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the
motion.'" SCW West LLC v. Westport Ins.
Corp.,856 F.Supp.2d 514, 521 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting
Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co.,46 F.3d 196, 202 (2d
Cir. 1995)). "[T]he judge's function is not Q to
weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but
to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial." Redd v. N.Y. Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d
166, 173-74 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Liberty Lobby,
477 U.S. at 249). However, "[a] party may not rely on
mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the
facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment, " and
"[m]ere conclusory allegations or denials ... cannot ...