Friday, November 15, 2019

No. 341: The Age 100 Problem—Another Update on the Lebbin Lawsuit Against Transamerica

In No. 331 (September 6, 2019), I posted an update about a 2017 lawsuit by Gary H. Lebbin—at the time he was almost 100—and the Lebbin-Spector Family Trust ("Trust"). The trustees of the Trust are Gary's two children. The defendant is Transamerica Life Insurance Company. Here I provide another update. (See Lebbin v. Transamerica, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, Case No. 9:18-cv-80558.)

Recent Developments
On February 5, 2019, by which time Gary was afflicted with dementia, Transamerica settled with him for $10,000. On February 22 the Trust filed an amended complaint that omitted Gary as a plaintiff, leaving the Trust as the only plaintiff. The amended complaint included five counts: declaratory relief, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, reformation, and rescission. On July 19 the judge granted the Trust's claim for breach of contract. The other four counts were denied by the judge or withdrawn by the Trust.

On July 30 the judge canceled the trial, which had been set for August 5. The parties said they had agreed to resolve the case, but they had not agreed on the damages for the Trust's breach-of-contract claim. The damages thus became the only remaining issue in the case. Had there been a trial, it would have been interesting to see what the jury would have said about the amount of damages. The judge set a briefing schedule under which the Trust was required to file its motion for summary judgment (MSJ) on damages by August 30.

The Trust's MSJ on Damages
On that date the Trust filed its MSJ on damages. The Trust requested a return of all premiums paid to Transamerica—a total of $1,670,140.91 plus prejudgment interest. The prejudgment interest rates the Trust suggested are the Florida statutory rates at the time of each premium payment. The Trust said it would provide the interest figure prior to the entry of final judgment.

Transamerica's Response
The briefing schedule required Transamerica to file its response to the Trust's MSJ by October 10. On that date the company filed a massive amount of material, including a document opposing the Trust's MSJ, a cross-motion for summary judgment, a memorandum of law, a response to the Trust's statement of undisputed material facts, 48 exhibits, and three supplemental declarations in opposition to the Trust's MSJ. Here is the first paragraph of Transamerica's opposition document. (The full opposition document is in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post.) It is important for the reader of the paragraph to understand that each of the two policies was a second-to-die universal life policy.
The result sought by Plaintiffs in this case would turn fundamental principles of insurance law and justice on their head. Gary Lebbin purchased two life insurance Policies insuring himself and his wife with a total death benefit of $3.2 million. Mr. Lebbin was fully aware that the Policies provided that, if both insureds died before each was 100 years old, the Policies would pay the death benefit. If either insured lived to be 100, the Policies would terminate and instead pay any cash value. Mr. Lebbin was a very sophisticated businessman who worked with expert brokers in purchasing these Policies, and personally managed them for 24 years. His management fully and repeatedly comported with and ratified this understanding of the Policies. In managing the Policies, Mr. Lebbin could either pay just enough premium to maintain the Policies to age 100, or he could pay sufficient premiums to build a cash value upon termination. He paid only the minimum premium because he believed he would not live to be 100, and he wanted the least expensive insurance.
The Trust's Reply
The briefing schedule required the Trust to reply to Transamerica's response by November 8. On that date the Trust filed its reply in support of its MSJ for damages, its response to Transamerica's cross-motion for summary judgment, and a motion to strike or disregard the supplemental declarations. Here, without citations, is the first paragraph of the Trust's reply in support of its MSJ for damages (the full reply document is in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post):
Transamerica argues that, regardless of the measure of damages the Court selects for Transamerica's wrongful termination of the Policies, Plaintiffs should not be compensated in any fashion for Transamerica's breach of contract. According to Transamerica's concept of "insurance law and justice," a life insurance company can breach its life insurance policies by improperly terminating them and yet retain millions of dollars in premium, interest, investment gains, profits, and reserved death benefits. Transamerica asks the Court to put Transamerica in a better position than if it had performed under the Policies, notwithstanding that the Policies have been adjudged so "incomprehensible" as to be "rendered ambiguous." [Emphasis in original.]
General Observations
The briefing schedule on damages requires Transamerica to file any response to the Trust's reply by November 25. As I understand it, after briefing is completed, the judge will rule on the damages for the Trust's breach-of-contract claim. I plan to prepare yet another update on this case after the judge rules on the damages.

Available Material
My previous posts about the Lebbin case, in addition to the above-mentioned No. 331, are Nos. 226, 241, 269, and 327. In each of those posts, I offered a complimentary package containing additional material. Those packages are still available.

Now I am offering a complimentary 55-page package consisting of Transamerica's October 10 opposition document (28 pages) and the Trust's November 8 reply document (27 pages). Email and ask for the November 2019 package about Lebbin v. Transamerica.