Statute of Limitations • Insurance Policy • Tolling Provision • Fraudulent Concealment Doctrine

Tertyshnaya v. Standard Security Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., PICS Case No. 14-0105 (C.P. Philadelphia Jan. 16, 2014) Snite, J. (13 pages).

Plaintiff’s various claims against the defendant insurers arising out of their alleged failure to pay accidental death benefits were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, as such claims were not tolled by the fraudulent concealment doctrine. Affirmance recommended.

Plaintiff was the widow of Dmitri Teryshnaya, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers in the National Hockey League. Plaintiff alleged that in March 1999, she and her husband purchased a policy for disability and accidental death and dismemberment insurance with respect to Teryshnaya.

Teryshnaya died on July 23, 1999. On May 27, 2010, plaintiff brought this action against Standard Security Life Insurance Co. of New York, HCC Specialty Underwriters Inc. and American Specialty Underwriters Inc., based on their alleged failure to pay accidental death benefits following her husband’s death.

The insurance defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The court of common pleas granted defendants’ motion. Plaintiff filed an appeal, prompting the court’s opinion.

The court noted that as of her husband’s death in July 1999, plaintiff was aware of her alleged right of recovery under the insurance policy she purchased with her husband. Moreover, on Aug. 30, 1999, the insurance defendants wrote to Teryshnaya’s sports agent, Jay Grossman, and included a copy of a permanent total disability policy and refund for the unused premium on that policy.

At that time, plaintiff was on notice that no death benefits were included in the policy and that no death benefits were to be paid by the insurance defendants. Thereafter, plaintiff did not contact the insurance defendants until December 2008 regarding the existence of a policy for her husband providing accidental death benefits.

The statute of limitations on plaintiff’s claims began to run no later than defendants’ communication with Grossman in August 1999. Plaintiff’s bad faith, fraudulent misrepresentation and negligence claims were governed by a two-year statute of limitations; thus, they must have been brought no later than August 2001.

Plaintiff’s declaratory relief, breach of contract and quantum meruit/unjust enrichment claims, which were subject to a four-year statute of limitations, must have been brought no later than August 2003. Finally, plaintiff’s unfair trade practices and consumer protection law claim, which was governed by a six-year statute of limitations, must have been brought by August 2005.

Since plaintiff did assert any of her claims until May 2010, her action was time-barred. Plaintiff sought to avoid the statutes of limitations by relying on the fraudulent concealment doctrine, an exception to the statutes of limitations.

In order to toll a limitations period under this doctrine, plaintiff was required to show that the insurance defendants committed some affirmative, independent act of concealment upon which plaintiff justifiably relied.