PHL Variable Insurance Co. v. Charter Oak Trust
Allegations that a life insurance company consistently follows a business practice of permitting customers to pay life insurance premiums for two years, before the insurer requests a declaratory judgment that the subject life insurance policy is void, may be sufficient to allege claims of unfair trade and unfair insurance practices. In March 2008, the defendant, Charter Oak Trust, allegedly applied for insurance to insure the life of Luella Mae Paulsrud, who receives income of approximately $295,000 per year and owns assets worth $11.2 million. Charter Oak allegedly indicated on the insurance application that no individual other than Luella Mae Paulsrud would pay the life insurance premiums. The plaintiff issued Charter Oak a life insurance policy with a death benefit of $6 million. The plaintiff requested that the court issue a declaratory judgment that the life insurance policy was void ab initio, because the defendant allegedly included fraudulent, willfully false or material misrepresentations and omissions on the life insurance application. The plaintiff also alleged fraud and negligent misrepresentation. The defendant filed a counterclaim, alleging anticipatory breach of contract, and the plaintiff moved to strike. Granting the plaintiff's motion, the court found the plaintiff's request for a declaratory court judgment about the parties' obligations did not indicate an intent not to perform and did not qualify as an anticipatory breach of contract. The plaintiff also moved to strike the defendant's counterclaim alleging that the plaintiff engages in unfair and deceptive practices, in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, because it allegedly collects life insurance premiums approximately 24 months, prior to seeking to rescind the policies and to keep the premiums. CUTPA prohibits the use of unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. The defendant adequately pled a general business practice, and the court denied the plaintiff's motion to strike the defendant's unfair trade and insurance practices counts. "[T]he deceptive acts asserted by the defendant," wrote the court, "involve the bad faith filing of declaratory judgment actions based on factually unsupportable grounds for the purpose of retaining paid premiums."