Fradianni v. Protective Life Insurance Company
Although a contract for life insurance is indivisible, it does not follow that a life insurance contract is not susceptible to repeated breaches. The plaintiff, Joseph Fradianni, appealed from the summary judgment rendered for the defendant, Protective Life Insurance Company. The plaintiff claimed that the trial court improperly found the defendant entitled to judgment as a matter of law because no genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the plaintiff's claims were time barred. The Appellate Court agreed and reversed the judgment. The plaintiff unsuccessfully claimed that the court erred in finding that the continuing course of conduct doctrine did not toll the six year statute of limitations prescribed by C.G.S. §52-576(a). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant engaged in a breaching course of conduct, beginning in 1992, when the defendant annually charged the plaintiff the cost of insurance applicable to insureds classified as double the standard risk, in excess of the maximum cost of insurance rates set forth in the policy. The plaintiff claimed that this breaching course of conduct continued when the defendant drew on the accumulated cash value of the policy to cover the excessive cost of insurance charges, which led to the ultimate lapse of the policy. The Appellate Court found that the plaintiff's damages arising from the alleged breaches were readily calculable and actionable at the time of breach, unlike cases where it is the cumulative effect of the defendant's behavior that gives rise to the injury. The allegations did not constitute a "course of conduct," but a series of repeated breaches over the years. However, the Appellate Court agreed that the trial court erred in rejecting the plaintiff's alternate argument that the statute of limitations did not bar the breach of contract claims occurring annually in the six years preceding the action or the alleged breach in terminating the policy. The trial court relied on the 1876 U.S. Supreme Court case of New York Life Insurance Company v. Statham, which rejected the insureds' contention that each annual premium payment initiated a new contract for life insurance. However, Statham did not decide the question presented of whether annual overcharges by the insurer may constitute discrete, but recurring, breaches of the contract. Genuine issues of material fact existed on whether the defendant breached the contract.