Life insurance attorneys often have to make a decision on whether or not to file suit against the agent who sold a policy. In that regard, what are the time limits for doing so.
This is a topic in this 2023, opinion from the Dallas Court of Appeals. The opinion is styled, Wrenn Wooten v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Jim Zara, And Patrick Matthews.
This case involves claims for life insurance benefits and disability benefits. The policies at issue were purchased in 2005. A lawsuit was filed in 2018.
All Defendants filed motions for summary judgment based on the defense of limitations.
The facts of the case can be gleamed from reading the opinion. Here, the limitations issue is pointed out. The Court stated as follows:
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to establish a point of repose and to terminate stale claims. A cause of action generally accrues when a party has been injured by another’s acts or omissions. “A cause of action can generally be said to accrue at the time when facts come into existence which authorize a claimant to seek a judicial remedy.” Under the legal injury rule, a cause of action accrues when a wrongful act causes some legal injury, even if the fact of injury is not discovered until later, and even if all resulting damages have not yet occurred. Determining the accrual date of a cause of action is a question of law.
Wooten alleged causes of action with two- and four-year periods of limitation. The statute of limitations for Wooten’s claims for negligent misrepresentation and for violation of the Texas Insurance Code and the DTPA is two years. Texas Insurance Code, Section 541.162(a) says, “A person must bring an action under this chapter before the second anniversary of … (1) the date the unfair method of competition or unfair or deceptive act or practice occurred; or (2) the date the person discovered or, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered that the unfair method of competition or unfair or deceptive act or practice occurred.” The Texas Business & Commerce Code, Section 17.565 says “All actions brought under this subchapter must be commenced within two years after the date on which the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice occurred or within two years after the consumer discovered or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered the occurrence of the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice.” The two-year limitations applied to insurance code, DTPA, and negligent misrepresentation. Pursuant to the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, Section 16.004(a)(4) is four years. Section 16.004(a)(5), says the limitations period for breach of fiduciary duty is four years. Courts note that a fiduciary breach claim generally accrues when the claimant knows or in the exercise of ordinary diligence should know of the wrongful act and resulting injury.
We conclude appellees carried their summary judgment burden of conclusively proving Wooten’s claims for violations of the Insurance Code and DTPA, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud accrued at the time Wooten purchased each policy. Moreover, we conclude Wooten’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty accrued when he purchased his insurance policies.