Tuesday, November 16, 2010

U.S. District Court holds that unsigned insurance application makes policy voidable

In RLI Ins. Co. v. Santos, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2010 WL 4183836, RLI issued an umbrella policy to Beli Lima. Lima's 17 year old son was involved in an automobile accident. RLI denied coverage, in part on the ground that Lima had never signed the insurance application.

Lima had submitted an insurance application in July, 2006. RLI rejected it because it was incomplete. In August, 2006, RLI received an application by fax. Lima testified that she does not recall seeing the August form, completing it, or signing it. She testified that the signature on it was not hers. The implication is that the application was filled out and signed by the insurance agent. The application form included the statement, "APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED WITHOUT APPLICANT'S ORIGINAL SIGNATURE."

RLI issued to Lima an umbrella policy in September, 2006. When Lima sought coverage for the accident, the court ruled that the policy was voidable by RLI as a matter of law because the signature was a condition precedent to the insurance contract.

The court held in part,

There is no question that a reasonable insurer would consider an applicant's original signature important to its intelligent decision to issue a policy. An original signature assures the insurer that the applicant has attested to the verity of her answers and that she consents to entering into the insurance contract.

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