Monday, August 15, 2005

insurance - misrepresentation - duty to read policy - unfair trade practices

Dilworth v. Metropoltian Life Insurance Company  - Third Circuit - August 12, 2005
This case deals with misrepresentations by an insurance agent about terms which differ from the terms of the actual policy, and the duty of the insured to look at the policy and discover such misrepresentations.
Plaintiff bought an insurance policy with the understanding that after a certain period of payments, the policy would be "self-funding," based on representations by the insurance agent.  As it turns out, that was not the case, and Plaintiff sued under the state Unfair Trade Practice law,  73 P.S. 201-1 et seq., as well as common law fraud. 
P did not sue, however, until long past the relevant two-year statute of limitations, but relied on the "discovery rule" that extends the S/L where a person acted with "due diligence" but is still "reasonably unaware that an injury has been sustained." 
The insurance company said that P was not "reasonably unaware" of the problems and that if she had made a cursory examination of the policy, she would have realized that it was not self-funding.  The court rejected this idea, saying that Pa. courts have held that the "examination requirement" is "at odds with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's justifiable reliable jurisprudence." 
The 3d Cir. didnt try to predict whether the Pa. Supreme Court would require a cursory examination of the policy in order to show due diligence, because it held that even had P done a cursory examination of the policy, she would not have been put on notice that the insurance agent had misrepresented the alleged self-funding nature of the policy.  
The court said that a "reasonable person" could be expected to get only "mininal information" from a cursory examination of the policy.