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Grooms v. Globe Life and Accident Ins. Co.

United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Florence Division

November 3, 2014

Angela Grooms, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Debbie Knotts, (Deceased), Plaintiff,
v.
Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company, a/k/a Globe Life Insurance Company, Defendant

For Angela Grooms, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Debbie Knotts Deceased Estate of Debbie Knotts, Plaintiff: Glenn V Ohanesian, Karolan Furr Ohanesian, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Ohanesian and Ohanesian, Myrtle Beach, SC.

For Little River Medical Center Inc, Movant: Andrew Marvin Connor, LEAD ATTORNEY, Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough (MB), Myrtle Beach, SC.

For Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company, also known as Globe Life Insurance Company, Defendant: Logan McCombs Wells, LEAD ATTORNEY, Collins and Lacy (GVL), Greenville, SC; William A Bryan, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEY, Collins and Lacy, Murrells Inlet, SC.

ORDER

R. Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's [Docket Entry #44] motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff seeks an order precluding the Defendant from raising the defense of fraudulent misrepresentation. Plaintiff argues that there is no evidence in the record to support Defendant's allegation that the deceased " knew, " at the time she completed her policy application, that she had cancer or a chronic illness or condition that may require periodic treatment or surgery. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

Factual Background

On January 10, 2011, Debbie Knotts reported to the Little River Medical Center complaining of a lump on her right breast. The medical record indicates Ms. Knotts found the lump sometime after Thanksgiving. [Docket Entry 48-1, at 2, Little River Medical Center record]. Little River Medical Center did not offer a definitive diagnosis but referred Ms. Knotts to Conway Hospital for an ultrasound of the breast on January 14, 2011.

On January 11, 2011, Ms. Knotts applied online for a life insurance policy with Defendant, Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company (hereinafter " Globe"). The online policy application consisted of four questions including: a) " In the past 3 years, has the Proposed Insured had or been treated for . . .cancer . . .?; " and b) " Does the Proposed Insured have any chronic illness or condition which requires periodic medical care or may require future surgery?" Ms. Knotts responded " No" to both questions. [Docket Entry #44-6, Policy application].

On January 12, 2011, a representative from Globe contacted Ms. Knotts to conduct a telephone interview. During the interview, Ms. Knotts was asked, " Do you have any growths that have been checked or should have been checked by a doctor?" Ms. Knotts answered " No." [Docket Entry #48-2, Recorded telephone interview].

Globe issued the life insurance policy to Ms. Knotts effective January 13, 2011, in the amount of $50, 000.00. [Docket Entry #44-8, Policy certificate].

On January 14, 2011, Ms. Knotts had an ultrasound of the breast, which revealed a " 3 cm solid mass within the right breast." [Docket Entry #44-3, Conway Medical Center record]. A biopsy was performed on January 17, 2011, at Georgetown Hospital System and confirmed that Ms. Knotts had a " malignant neoplasm most consistent with infiltrating mammary carcinoma" or breast cancer. [Docket Entry #44-5, Georgetown Hospital System pathology report].

According to an affidavit submitted by Angela Grooms, [1] Ms. Knotts was informed that she had breast cancer on January 21, 2011, during an appointment with Dr. Craig Brackett.[2] [Docket Entry #44-10, Affidavit of Angela Grooms].

Debbie Knotts passed away on September 10, 2011, from acute cardiopulmonary arrest and breast cancer. [Docket Entry #44-4, Death certificate]. On September 22, 2011, Angela Grooms submitted a claim for benefits on the Globe life insurance policy.

Globe denied Ms. Grooms' life insurance claim in a letter dated November 10, 2011, stating that " [i]f the Company had been aware of Debbie L. Knotts' medical history at the time of the application, we would have been unable to approve her for coverage under this policy." [Docket Entry #44-7, Denial letter]. Accordingly, Globe ...


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