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Jason Rogers v. Household Life Insurance Company

March 18, 2011

JASON ROGERS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
HOUSEHOLD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY,
DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Darla S. Williamson, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2011 Opinion No. 35

Stephen Kenyon, Clerk

The district court order granting summary judgment is affirmed.

This appeal arises from a claim for life insurance proceeds. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Household Life Insurance Company (HLIC) on the grounds that Alan Rogers' life insurance contract was void because he was adjudicated incompetent before he entered the contract. Alan's son and guardian, Jason Rogers, argues that the contract was merely voidable, that as Alan's guardian he had the capacity to and did ratify the contract, and that the contract was thus enforceable. We affirm, but deny HLIC's request for attorney fees incurred on appeal.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Alan Rogers was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and dementia in 2003. Soon after, Alan's son Jason sought an adjudication that Alan was incapacitated. An order to that effect was entered on January 27, 2004. The letters appointing Jason as guardian and conservator for his father did not place any limitations on Jason's powers.

On May 15, 2007, Jason assisted his father in completing and submitting an online application for life insurance offered by HLIC. The application requested information regarding Alan's health, but did not specifically inquire as to whether Alan suffered from Alzheimer's or dementia. The completed application did not reveal that Alan was adjudicated to be incapacitated, nor did it reveal that Jason had been appointed as his father's guardian and conservator. That day, HLIC approved the application, the initial $447.20 premium was paid, and Alan Rogers' term life insurance policy with a face value of $250,000 took effect. Jason was the sole beneficiary of the policy.

Alan passed away on June 7, 2007. His death certificate lists the sole cause of his death as "dementia of the Alzheimer's type." Jason submitted a notice of claim to HLIC, seeking the $250,000 policy proceeds. HLIC conducted a medical-history verification, a routine procedure for claims arising within two years of a policy's inception. Several months later, HLIC informed Jason of its position that, because Alan had been adjudicated mentally incompetent prior to the May 15, 2007, application and effective date, the policy was void from its inception.

Jason brought suit against HLIC, alleging breach of contract and tortious bad faith. HLIC moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Alan Rogers was adjudicated mentally incapacitated prior to entering into the insurance contract and therefore the contract was void ab initio. Jason countered that a contract entered into by one adjudicated incompetent is not void, but rather is merely voidable at the election of the incompetent's guardian, and also that a guardian may ratify such a contract.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of HLIC on the ground that Alan's adjudication of incompetence rendered the contract void and dismissed Jason's complaint. Jason timely appealed. HLIC requests attorney fees and costs on appeal under Idaho Code § 41-1839.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court reviews a district court's order granting summary judgment under the same standard used by the district court in its ruling on the motion for summary judgment. Cristo Viene Pentecostal Church v. Paz, 144 Idaho 304, 307, 160 P.3d 743, 746 (2007). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a ...


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