Life Insurance And Statute Of Limitations

Life Insurance claims have periods the same as other forms of insurance.
Here is a 2023 opinion dealing with limitation issues and examines how courts look at these cases.  The opinion is from the First Court of Appeals and is styled, J.R. Argo v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company.
This claim arises out of a home owners claim but the limitations issue would be the same with a life insurance case.
Before going further it is important to realize that most insurance companies have separate entities with different names and naming the correct insurance entity is vital in a lawsuit.  The courts look to see whether the wrong party being sued is the result of a misnomer or a misnaming of the correct party.  This is a summary judgment case against Argo and the facts can be read separately.  What is important is understanding the law on the limitations issue.
In his first issue, Argo argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of USAA-CIC on his claims against it because he raised a fact issue as to whether his claims against USAA related back to the date of the filing of his original petition and thus were not barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations period. Argo asserts that it was misnomer, and not misidentification, when he “inadvertently named [USAA-CIC] instead of [USAA] in his petition.
A misnomer occurs when a party misnames itself or another party, but the correct parties are involved.  When correct defendant is served under wrong or misspelled name, the case is one of misnomer.  Generally, courts allow parties to correct a misnomer if it is not misleading.
Misidentification, on the other hand, occurs when two separate legal entities actually exist and a plaintiff mistakenly sues the entity with a name similar to that of the correct entity.  The consequences of misidentification are “generally harsh.  For example, if a plaintiff is mistaken as to which of two defendants is the correct one and there is actually existing a corporation with the name of the erroneously named defendant (misidentification), then the plaintiff has sued the wrong party and the statute of limitations is not tolled.
Here, the undisputed evidence shows that USAA-CIC and USAA are two separate legal entities, making this a case of misidentification.  Yet USAA-CIC and USAA are related entities.  When misidentification involves related entities, an equitable exception to the general rule for misidentification cases may apply.  The statute of limitations will be tolled in misidentification cases if there are two separate, but related, entities that use a similar trade name and the correct entity had notice of the suit and was not misled or disadvantaged by the mistake.  This exception requires proof that the correct entity received actual notice of the plaintiff’s suit within the statute of limitations period.
Argo notes that USAA-CIC and USAA shared a registered agent, as well as an address, telephone number, and fax number and they also shared the same law firm.  He also points out that he identified his insurance policy as a USAA policy and put the policy number in his petition.  But that evidence does not raise a fact issue as to whether USAA had actual notice of Argo’s suit.  The fact that businesses have the same registered agent and the same attorneys is not evidence that they were aware of whom plaintiffs intended to sue.  Texas law presumes that two separate corporations are distinct entities, and no evidence shows that the corporate form has been used as part of a basically unfair device to achieve an inequitable result such that USAA-CIC’s knowledge should be imputed to USAA.
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