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Slaughter v. Central United Life Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 27, 2018

H. STEVE SLAUGHTER, ET UX. Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
CENTRAL UNITED LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 149, 281 Honorable Jeff Cox, Judge

          THE PESNELL LAW FIRM, APLC Billy R. Pesnell J. Whitney Pesnell W. Alan Pesnell Counsel for Appellants.

          ADAMS and REESE, LLP William B. Gaudet Gerard J. Gaudet Counsel for Appellee.

          Before BROWN, WILLIAMS, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          BROWN, C.J.

         Plaintiffs, Steve and Minnie Slaughter, husband and wife, appeal from a judgment sustaining an exception of prescription filed by defendant, Central United Life Insurance Company, dismissing all of Plaintiffs' claims for disability insurance benefits, surrender value, and refunds of premiums paid from the date of disability. For the following reasons, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In October 1983, Plaintiffs purchased a guaranteed health and accident insurance policy insuring the life and health of Minnie Masters Slaughter against disability from Consolidated American Life Insurance Company. At oral argument, we were told that Mrs. Slaughter was employed by the Slaughters' own business, Steve Motors and Truck Parts, and this policy was part of a group insurance package. Consolidated American Life Insurance Company and the policy were subsequently acquired by Central United Life Insurance Company ("Defendant" or "Central United"), by and through a merger.

         Plaintiffs paid all of the premiums due on or in connection with the policy and maintained the policy in full force and effect at all times through February 16, 2016. On that date, Plaintiffs filed their petition, alleging that in February 1994, Mrs. Slaughter became totally disabled as the result of a nervous breakdown and depression and has been totally and continuously disabled at all times since February of l994.

         Plaintiffs sought to recover from Defendant the policy's limit of 60 months (five years) of indemnity payments at $940 per month for a total of $56, 400, together with legal interest on those monthly payments from the date on which each of those monthly payments became due until paid. The petition did not specify which 60-month period for which Plaintiffs were seeking benefits.

         However, in the alternative, Plaintiffs requested "a refund of all premiums paid by petitioners, from February of 1994 through March of 1999, which, under the Policy, were waived during her disability for a period of five (5) years, together with legal interest from the date of payment until the date of refund."

         In their argument to the trial court and in their appellate brief, Plaintiffs urged that the written proof of loss sets out that Mrs. Slaughter's claim for continuous disability benefits could potentially be any 60-month period between 1994 and 2015, including the 60-month period immediately prior to January 1, 2015 (i.e., from January 2010 to January 2015).

         Filed with the petition are a copy of the insurance policy, a copy of the "Individual Disability Claim Form," a list of treating physicians, a copy of the "Occupational Information" form, a copy of the "Attending Physician's Initial Report" form, and a copy of the "General Power of Attorney."

         The physician's report indicates that Mrs. Slaughter's condition developed as a result of a "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in 1994 due to her depression" and the physician, Dr. Shane Carr, was first consulted in 1999. It also shows that Mrs. Slaughter had onset dementia in 2014. The doctor wrote, "Her husband is trying to get benefits for disability going back to 1994. My record of her illness is limited." As of a report dated January 20, 2015, Dr. Carr's diagnosis for Mrs. Slaughter was anxiety/depression ...


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