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Blind man wasn't bluffing in life insurance dispute

The explosion of a container of oven cleaner blinded a man seven years ago and he permanently lost sight in both of his eyes. However, the trauma of losing his sense of sight did not deter the injury victim from pursuing his claim to insurance benefits.

Before long, the insurance claim was denied, although the victim was covered by a life insurance policy for accidental death and dismemberment. The man had submitted the claim within the requisite 90-day period, as stipulated by the insurance policy. The injured man appealed his case and was rejected again by the insurer.

Two years ago, the policyholder filed a lawsuit in federal court that was thrown out. The court dismissed the suit because the claimant waited too long to file. The accidental death and dismemberment policy stipulated that lawsuits against the insurance company had to be filed within three years.

State law differed from Hartford's policy. The state limit to file a breach of contract suit was five years.

Many claimants might have given up after so many legal rejections. The disabled man refused to let the issue die and appealed again. This time, the law was on his side.

A three-judge panel reversed the earlier district court ruling. The case was remanded, after the judges agreed that the insurer's three-year litigation barrier was void. The state's five-year limit for filing contract lawsuits trumped the insurance company's three-year term.

The insurer and the lower court were apparently out of line in this case, but judges noted that some courts did honor lawsuit limitations when the litigation period in an insurance contract was "reasonable."

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Blind Man Can Sue Insurer After All," Jonny Bonner, May 24, 2012

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