Secondo v. Housing Authority of the City of Hartford
Connecticut General Statutes §38a-456 provides, "Any . . . corporation . . . providing group life insurance coverage for its employees shall furnish each insured employee, upon cancellation . . . notice of the cancellation." The plaintiff, Gayle Secondo, alleged that her husband, Frank, worked for the defendant, the Housing Authority of the City of Hartford, and enrolled in the housing authority's life insurance with Northwestern National Life Insurance Co., which changed its name to ReliaStar Life Insurance. Allegedly, the housing authority paid Secondo $10,000 in life insurance benefits, when her husband died, although she was entitled to $54,000 in life insurance benefits. The plaintiff sued the housing authority, alleging it failed to provide written notice, before discontinuing the life insurance coverage, as required by C.G.S. §38a-456. The housing authority moved to strike and argued it is a public corporation and that C.G.S. §38a-456 only applies to private corporations. The housing authority also argued that even if the statute applies to public corporations, ERISA, the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, in 29 United States Code §1001, pre-empts the plaintiff's claims. The court did not find any Connecticut state court decisions that interpret C.G.S. §38a-456. In Jackson v. Bridgeport Housing Authority, a 2007 decision, Superior Court Judge Paul Matasavage wrote that "corporation" in C.G.S. §13a-149 applied to a housing authority. If the legislature had intended to exclude public corporations from the notice requirements in C.G.S. §38a-456, it could have explicitly provided that. Ruling on an issue of apparent first impression, the court found that "corporation" in C.G.S. §38a-456 applies to public and private corporations. "[B]ased on the express language of the provision and the general remedial purpose behind the notification of termination provisions in the insurance statute," wrote the court, "the term 'corporation' encompasses both public and private corporations." The court rejected the housing authority's claim that ERISA pre-empts the plaintiff's claim. ERISA does not apply to government-sponsored benefit plans, and the housing authority qualifies as a political subdivision of the state government. The court denied the housing authority's motion to strike the plaintiff's claim it violated C.G.S. §38a-456.