Wednesday, January 10, 2007

When is an insurance policy "in force"?

On November 8, 2004, an insurer served a complaint claiming that the insured had fraudulently obtained two life insurance policies which contained language to the effect that they could not be contested after they had been in force, during the insured's lifetime, for two years from the earlier of the policy date or the issue date.

The policy date for both was November 1, 2002, and the issue dates were November 8, 2002, and December 3, 2002, respectively.

When the insured moved to dismiss because the period in which to contest the policies had expired, the insurer argued that the policies were contestable because they were not in force prior to November 8, 2002.

On January 9, 2007, in Security Mutual v. Herpal, the First Department held the complaint to be time-barred in New York, where the issue date controls unless expressly stated in the writing. Here, the insurer had given the insured an earlier date to trigger the incontestability period.