In Webb v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, Ronald Webb, an employee of Adobe Systems Incorporated, took out several life insurance policies:
· A basic life insurance policy for $250,000.
· An optional life insurance policy for $1 million.
· A basic accidental death insurance policy for $250,000.
· An optional accidental death insurance policy for $1 million.
The policies went into effect on May 11, 2012. On December 27, 2013, Mr. Webb died of a self-inflicted gunshot to his head which the coroner ruled was a suicide. Mrs. Webb attempted to collect on the policies and provided Liberty Life with her husband’s death certificate on January 24, 2014.
On January 27, 2014, Liberty Life informed Mrs. Webb that it would pay basic life insurance benefits and included a check for those benefits plus interest. In that same letter, Liberty Life informed Mrs. Webb that it would not pay for optional benefits due to a suicide exclusion in the policy. Mrs. Webb requested a review of the decision to deny benefits. That review also resulted in a denial of optional benefits. She then filed this ERISA lawsuit on June 12, 2015.
Contractual Time Limitations Are Valid
The language of the Liberty Life policy specifically required a lawsuit to be filed within one year “after the time the Proof of claim is required.” Liberty also required a proof of loss to be submitted 30 days after the loss, a requirement with which Mrs. Webb complied. The court interpreted the policy language to mean that a lawsuit had to be filed one year plus 30 days after the loss. Since Mr. Webb died on December 27, 2013, one year plus 30 days meant the lawsuit had to be filed by January 27, 2015.
Mrs. Webb did not file her lawsuit until June 12, 2015, almost five months after the contractual deadline. Relying on precedent, the Georgia court held that, since the lawsuit was “not filed within the contractual limitations period. The Court finds no reason not to enforce the limitations period as written.”
This case was not handled by our office, but we thought it could be instructive for those who have been denied life insurance or accidental death benefits and need to file an ERISA lawsuit. For help with a similar matter, contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.