United States District Court for the District of Columbia
April 13, 2005.
BRUNO UNUM, Plaintiff,
FIRST UNUM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSEMARY COLLYER, District Judge
Plaintiff here, appearing pro se, filed a lengthy complaint
with numerous claims arising from a disability insurance policy
obtained in the State of New York. The Court earlier dismissed
all defendants except the Continental Casualty Company and
Hartford Life Group Insurance Company ("Insurance Companies"),
but ordered Plaintiff to provide a more definite statement of his
claims. Unum v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., 04-723 (RMC), slip
op. (D.D.C. Jan. 14, 2005). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint
and the Insurance Companies filed a motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment. The Court issued a
"Fox/Neal" Order*fn1 directing Plaintiff to respond with
affidavits or sworn statements or the Court may treat the motion
as conceded. Unum v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., 04-723 (RMC),
Order, (D.D.C. Feb. 15, 2005). Plaintiff having now filed
pleadings he has labeled "Suppliment [sic] to the Complaint" and
"Additional evidence [sic]," the Court will address the merits of
the motion. BACKGROUND
The background to this dispute was described in detail in the
Court's previous memorandum opinion and will not be repeated in
full here. During the time frame of the conduct alleged in the
amended complaint, Plaintiff was a licensed physician and
neurologist practicing under the name Michael John Mazzeo with
offices in New York, New York.*fn2 He applied for long-term
disability insurance in 1995. The insurance was underwritten by
First Unum Life Insurance Company until November 1, 1996, when it
was cancelled by First Unum and transferred to Continental
Casualty Company. The policies provided that in order to receive
disability benefits, the insured must be continuously unable to
perform the substantial and material duties of his occupation and
be under the regular care of a licensed physician.
Plaintiff filed a claim for long-term disability benefits on
August 15, 1999, based on an injury he sustained to his right
foot on July 18, 1999. In medical reports filed with Continental
Casualty, Plaintiff's doctor indicated that he had imposed
limited restrictions for only three months total. Continental
Casualty requested that Plaintiff provide statements of income
from his medical practice and expense information. This
information was not timely provided and Continental Casualty
denied the claim on April 10, 2000 on the grounds that Plaintiff
had not provided requested information and that the medical
reports had not demonstrated an inability to return to full-time
Plaintiff then consulted with two orthopedic specialists who
diagnosed a nerve tenderness in his right leg and suggested
possible surgery in the future. These reports were submitted by Plaintiff to Continental Casualty's Appeals Committee, which,
on August 24, 2000, affirmed the initial denial of Plaintiff's
claim. Plaintiff and Continental Casualty then engaged in
multiple telephone conversations by which Plaintiff complained of
this result. By letter dated October 26, 2000, the insurance
company advised him to put his concerns in writing.
On March 27, 2002, Plaintiff sent a list of handwritten
questions by facsimile to Continental Casualty. One asked:
"Should a controlled study of insurance companies, health
maintenance organizations etc. be done to reduce the degree of
harm and contain damages?" Another asked: "What are the names of
the congressmen in your district?" By letter dated April 3, 2002,
Continental Casualty responded, informing Plaintiff that his
questions did not include specific details concerning his claim
and that if he wanted to submit additional information he could
do so, but that his claim had been denied and that denial had
been upheld by the Appeals Committee.
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on May 3, 2004. He admits that,
prior to filing the suit, he had "[c]ontinual contact with . . .
the defendant's [sic] over the past three and one half to four
years, without success, mediation, or dispute resolution." Am.
Compl. ¶ 4; see also id. ¶ 29 ("Obstinate behavior was received
by the entire process over three and a half to four year's [sic],
almost like I should not be injured, damaged, or bothering them
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows "that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R.
CIV. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247 (1986). This procedural device is not a disfavored legal
shortcut; rather, it is a reasoned and careful way to resolve
cases fairly and expeditiously. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court must
view the underlying facts and draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,
Ltd. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washington Post
Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325
(D.C. Cir. 1989). Once the moving party shows that there is a
lack of evidence supporting the opponent's case, the burden
shifts to the non-movant to demonstrate, through affidavits or
otherwise, the existence of a material issue for trial. See
Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1041 (D.C.
Cir. 2003); Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C.
The Insurance Companies argue that Plaintiff's amended
complaint should be dismissed because it fails to comply with the
Court's Order to provide a short and plain statement of the facts
and also because it is barred by the statute of limitations. The
Court agrees that the amended complaint is unsatisfactory and
"replete with scurrilous comments and unfounded accusations."
Memorandum in Support of Motion of Defendants Continental
Casualty Company and Hartford Group to Dismiss Amended Complaint
Or, In the Alternative, For Summary Judgment at 2. Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and because the
amended complaint reveals on its face that his suit is untimely,
the Court will rule on the merits and not on procedural
In cases based on diversity jurisdiction, as here, the courts
apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum. Ideal Elect. Sec.
Co. v. Int'l Fid. Ins. Co., 129 F.3d 143, 148 (D.C. Cir. 1997);
Bradley v. Nat'l Ass'n of Sec. Dealers Dispute Resolution,
245 F. Supp. 2d 17, 20 (D.D.C. 2003). Therefore, in cases such as the
present action, the District of Columbia statute of limitation
applies. See Material Supply Int'l, Inc. v. Sunmatch Indus. Co.,
Ltd., 146 F.3d 983, 991-92 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (finding that D.C.
law governs statute of limitations in a contract case); A.I.
Trade Fin., Inc. v. Petra Int'l Banking Corp., 62 F.3d 1454,
1458 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (finding that D.C. treats statute of
limitations as procedural and applies its own rule).
The District of Columbia has a three-year statute of
limitations on insurance claims. See D.C. Code § 12-301(7)
(2001); Partnership Placements, Inc. v. Landmark Ins. Co.,
722 A.2d 837, 841 (D.C. 1998). An insurance action accrues when the
insurer denies coverage. Saylab v. Hartford Mut. Ins. Co.,
271 F. Supp. 2d 112, 118 (D.D.C. 2003). It is undisputed that
Plaintiff made his disability claim in August 1999. On August 24,
2000, Continental Casualty denied the claim after appeal.
Plaintiff filed this cause of action on May 3, 2004.
Assuming the most generous interpretation of the facts,
Plaintiff's claim against the Insurance Companies accrued on
August 24, 2000. His complaint was filed over three years later.
The claims against the Insurance Companies are, therefore,
time-barred and the Court will grant summary judgment in their favor.*fn5
For the reasons stated, the amended complaint will be dismissed
because the statute of limitations has passed and the initial
complaint was time-barred when it was filed. A separate order
accompanies this memorandum opinion.