John B. Dupree, Attorney at Law

Knoxville Lawyer for ERISA Relief

Free Consultation

713 Market Street

2nd Floor - Cate Building

Knoxville, TN 37902

865.437.5081

Life Insurance – Sometimes it Kicks a Man When He is Down

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 | Uncategorized | No Comments

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Sometimes life insurance companies deny a claim because it alleges that it did not receive a premium payment, sent a cancellation notice and received no response. But what if an insured goes into the hospital with an extended illness and cannot physically or mentally respond to cancellation notices sent to the home address? What if the insured has not given a power of attorney to someone else to handle his affairs if he becomes ill? Isn’t this a likely situation as folks grow older? Perhaps the life insurance companies know this and rely upon this as a way to deny claims.

Tennessee and many other jurisdictions follow a common law presumption that a letter has been received, provided it was enclosed in a envelope, correctly addressed and stamped, and placed in the mail. Wilson v. Blount County, 207 S.W.3d 741, 749 n. 2 (Tenn.2006) (citing Warmath v. Payne, 3 S.W.3d 487, 492 (Tenn.Ct.App. 1999)). A creditor is not “forced to take responsibility for lost mail or the debtor’s refusal to accept properly delivered mail.” R & J of Tenn., Inc. v. Blankenship-Melton Real Estate, Inc., 166 S.W.3d 195, 204 (Tenn.Ct.App.2004); Griffin v. General Accident Fire and Life, 94 Ohio App.403, 410 (1953); Simpson v.Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co., 465 F.2d 1320,1323 (6th Cir. 1972).

But this presumption may be rebutted, and a question of fact created, if there is testimony the insured did not receive the notice.

We represented a client beneficiary once who filed a claim with a life insurance company but the claim was denied because the insurance company asserted that it mailed a cancellation letter to the insured – but the insured was in the hospital in a very bad condition at the time of the alleged mailing.  The insured was not at his house to receive the notice and his daughter stated that she never saw such a letter arrive at the home.  During litigation, the insurance company filed a motion to dismiss asserting that its normal protocol was to mail such notices.  However, the claimed notice was nowhere to be found in the claim file.  We brought this to the attention of the court and, low and behold, the insurance company found the letter!

So we asked for a digital copy of the letter in its native format so we could determine when the letter was generated.  Interestingly, the life insurance company desired to settle the claim before it had to provide the documentation.  I wonder why?

The point of this post is that if you are a beneficiary, be aware of payments and notices relevant to a life insurance policy.

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John B. Dupree, Attorney at Law

713 Market Street

2nd Floor - Cate Building

Knoxville, TN 37902

Email: john.dupree@knoxtnlaw.com

865.437.5081 Phone

865.437.5082 Fax

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