Private Limitations of Action Provision Enforced: Ninth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment Because Suit Was Filed Too Late.

Author:Zalma, Barry
Position::[ON MY RADAR]
 
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* Every first party property insurance policy contain a special provision that limits the time available for an insured to sue the insurer in the event a claim is rejected. The private limitations provision is usually less than the state's statute of limitations and protects the insurer from stale claims.

In Maxwell B. Williams And Claire N. Williams v. Travelers Home And Marine Insurance Company And Travelers Indemnity Company, No. 17-17368, United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit (October 17, 2018) the Ninth Circuit was asked to ignore a private limitation of action provision.

FACTS

Maxwell and Claire Williams brought a diversity insurance coverage action seeking coverage under their homeowners' policy after suffering a water loss at their residence in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Williamses appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company ("Travelers").

In Nevada, a claim for bad faith must be filed within four years of the triggering event. A claim based on violation of statute must be filed within three years of the triggering event. Under Nevada law, an insured's limitations period does not begin to run until the insurer "formally denies" liability or additional benefits. No magic words are necessary to constitute a denial of further benefits; rather the limitations period is triggered by notification that the carrier has failed to fulfill its promise to pay a claim.

Here, the limitations period was triggered by Travelers' October 5, 2011 letter, which stated that Travelers was closing the claim file because the Williamses had failed to cooperate with Travelers' previous two requests for inspection of the property and additional information in support of the claim. The letter notified the Williamses that Travelers was "closing [its] file," and referred the Williamses to their insurance policy's "Suit Against Us" provision, which set forth a two-year limitation period for breach of the policy. The letter put the Williamses on notice that Travelers would not make further payments on the claim.

The only evidence the Williamses offered of any post-closure activity is Travelers' July 7, 2012 letter, which advised the Williamses that Travelers did not have a record of the check it issued to them on May 26, 2011 being cashed. The letter did not indicate that any further consideration had been or would be given to the Williamses' claim or that Travelers contemplated further...

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