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Shilling v. Reassure America Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 25, 2015

ARLENE SHILLING, as Administrator Ad Prosequendum for the Estate of Donald Shilling, Plaintiff,
v.
REASSURE AMERICA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

OPINION

JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment, filed by Defendant Reassure America Insurance Life Company[1] and Plaintiff Arlene Shilling, As Administrator Ad Prosequendum for the Estate of Donald Shilling. The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties and the oral arguments advanced at the hearing on February 17, 2015. For the reasons stated on the record that day, and those set forth here, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted and Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be denied.

I. Background

On July 12, 1988, Donald Shilling was issued a Flexible Life Insurance With Premium Adjusted Provision Life Insurance Policy[2] by Defendants. McKinlay Cert., Ex. 4-5, 6 at ¶. The policy carried a $37, 000.00 Death Benefit. Id. According to Defendant, Donald Shilling failed to pay certain planned periodic premiums required to cover the monthly costs of the insurance and the load/expense deductions. Id. at Exs. 5, 6, and 7. As a result, on January 12, 2012, the policy lacked sufficient Cash Surrender Value to cover the monthly costs of the insurance and the load/expense deductions causing the policy to enter into the "Grace Period."[3] The Grace Period permits Shilling to make a premium payment large enough to cover the costs within 61 days. Id. at Exs. 5, 6 at ¶ 23. Defendant claims that it sent a letter explaining the Grace Period to Shilling on February 7, 2012. Id. Ex. 6, Ex. 7, 81:7-22; 84:9-23. Here, the Grace Period expired on March 14, 2012 and Defendant's letter directed Shilling to pay a premium of $744.06 by that date or risk termination of the policy. Id. at Ex. 6, 11.

Shilling failed to make a payment and the policy terminated. Defendant claims it mailed Shilling a Notice of Policy Termination on March 14, 2012 and advised him that the Grace Period expired and that the policy had insufficient funds to cover the costs of the insurance and the load/expense deductions. Id. Ex. 12. Donald Shilling passed away on November 16, 2012, nearly eight months after the policy expired. Id. Exs. 6, 12. His estate claims that it was never notified by Defendant that the policy had entered into the Grace Period or that the policy terminated. In addition, Plaintiff disputes that the policy properly entered the Grace Period because Defendants cannot validate its accounting of the policy cash surrender value prior to 2001. Both parties move for summary judgment.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A court will grant a motion for summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). Thus, this Court will enter summary judgment only when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c).

An issue is "genuine" if supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F.Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Andersen, 477 U.S. at 256-57. Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the finder of fact. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

In cases such as this, where cross-motions for summary judgment are pending, "[t]he Court must rule on each party's motion on an individual and separate basis, determining, for each side, whether a judgment may be entered in accordance with the Rule 56 standard." 10A Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane & Richard L. Marcus Federal Practice and Procedure § 2720 (3d ed.); Marciniak v. Prudential Financial Ins. Co. of Am., 184 Fed.Appx. 266, 270 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing same). Accordingly, the Court will first consider Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and determine whether Plaintiff has met his burden of demonstrating no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Pearson, 247 F.3d at 482 n. 1 (internal citation omitted).

Here, Plaintiff's cross-motion is nothing more than a notice. There is no brief submitted in support of the motion. In addition, the motion was filed nineteen (19) days after the deadline for submission of dispositive motions set by the Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. No. 16. To succeed on her cross motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact or that she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The Court finds that Plaintiff has not properly asserted this motion before the Court and the Court is therefore unable to grant the motion. For these reasons, it is dismissed.

III. Analysis

Summary judgment is granted in favor of Defendant because the policy was not in force at the time of Donald Shilling's death. As a result, Defendant did not breach its obligations under the contract. In addition, even if the policy was in force, summary judgment is granted as to Plaintiff's claims for ...


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