The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR . FED ERALBLD G . & U .S. COURT HOUSE 50 WALNUT STREET , P.O . B O X 419 NEW ARK, N J 07101-0419 (973) 645-6340
This matter comes before the Court on both Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 and Defendant's motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety. The motions are opposed. Jurisdiction is found under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Court adjudicates this matter on the papers. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED and Plaintiffs' complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety.
This is a diversity case in which Plaintiff Loper, a Connecticut citizen is suing Defendant Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Pruco"), a New Jersey citizen, for $650,000 in death benefits under her deceased husband, Michael Loper's ("Mr. Loper"), Pruco life insurance policy. Mr. Loper applied for the $650,000 life insurance policy from Pruco in March 2004 naming Plaintiff as his sole beneficiary. On March 31, 2004 he signed a Limited Insurance Agreement ("LIA") that would cover him for either 60 days, or until he was issued or denied a permanent policy. Mr. Loper paid his initial premium and otherwise complied with the terms of the policy. On May 29, 2004, 59 days after he signed the LIA, Mr. Loper committed suicide. Pruco had issued his policy on May 6, 2005 (the "Policy"), but it had not been delivered at the time of his death. Plaintiff timely requested death benefits and, on December 6, 2004, Pruco informed her by letter that any benefits would be subject to the LIA. In a March 1, 2005 letter, Pruco informed Plaintiff that having verified her husband's suicide, under the terms of the LIA, payment was limited to amounts already paid; Pruco had already returned the initial premium and attached a check for $1.54 to cover the remaining interest owed.
Mr. Loper had been treated for many years with anti-depressive medication, and Plaintiff contends that adjustment to his medication may have rendered him insane at the time of his suicide. Under the terms of the issued Pruco policy, "[i]f the insured, whether sane or insane, dies by suicide within two years from the issue date, this contract will end and we will return the premiums paid. The contract will provide no further benefit." (Policy at 6.) In contrast, the LIA language limits payment to the return of the amount paid "[i]f death is due to suicide or intentionally self-inflicted injury" without any reference to "sane or insane." (LIA at 2.) However, the LIA further outlines that "[t]he insurance is subject to the terms, limitations and exclusions of the policy you have requested from the Company." (Id.) Finally , the LIA outlines that limited coverage ends when, among others:
1. We issue a policy as applied for and the application has been signed.
2. We deliver a policy other than as applied for.
Plaintiff filed her Complaint on May 25, 2005, alleging that the terms of the LIA, lacking "sane or insane" language, required payment for her husband's suicide while insane from his medication; she seeks $650,000 plus costs. Following motion practice before Magistrate Judge Hedges, on May 9, 2006, Plaintiff filed her motion for partial summary judgment asking the Court to find as a matter of law that the LIA governed at the time of Mr. Loper's suicide and that insane or involuntary suicide was covered under the LIA. On May 12, 2006 (amended on May 15, 2006), Defendant moved for summary judgment asking the Court to find as a matter of law that Pruco was not liable to pay death benefits regardless if Mr. Loper's suicide was "sane or insane."
I. Standard for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Rule 56
Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Rule 56(e) requires that when a motion for summary judgment is made, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See id.; see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law will preclude the entry of summary judgment. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If the evidence is such that a ...