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Joseph v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

March 24, 2015

GREGORY L. JOSEPH, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

ORDER

HUGH LAWSON, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 23). After reviewing the pleadings, briefs, affidavits, and other evidentiary materials presented, and determining that there is no genuine dispute of the material facts, the Court finds that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and grants Defendant's motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The undisputed material facts are these:[1]

A. Disability Insurance Policy

In June 1988, Plaintiff Gregory L. Joseph ("Joseph"), purchased an individual disability income insurance policy (the "Policy") from Defendant Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company ("Northwestern Mutual") through Walker Sullivan ("Sullivan"), an independent contractor authorized to solicit applications for insurance on behalf of Northwestern Mutual. The Policy provides a Full Benefit for total disability, a Proportionate Benefit for partial disability, and a lifetime benefit for presumptive disability. The Policy defines each category based on the impact of the disability on the insured's ability to perform the principal duties of his occupation at the time he becomes disabled or, in the case of presumptive disability, on the nature of the disability, such as the total and irrevocable loss of hearing in both ears. The Policy was amended shortly after issuance to extend the Initial Period from 60 months to June 24, 2023, which falls several months after Joseph's 65th birthday.

The "Claims" section of the Policy contains several provisions pertinent to this case:

4.1 NOTICE OF CLAIM
Written notice of claim must be given to the Company within 60 days after the start of any loss covered by this policy. If the notice cannot be given within 60 days, it must be given as soon as reasonably possible.
...
4.3 PROOF OF DISABILITY
Written proof of disability must be given to the Company within 90 days after the end of each monthly period for which benefits are claimed. If the proof is not given within 90 days, the claim will not be affected if the proof is given as soon as reasonably possible.
...
4.6 LEGAL ACTIONS
No legal action may be brought for benefits under this policy within 60 days after written proof of disability has been given. No legal action may be brought after three years (or a longer period that is required by law) from the time written proof is required to be given.

(Doc. 23-2, p. 8).

B. Plaintiff's Occupational History and Claim for Disability Benefits

At the time he purchased the Policy, Joseph, a certified public accountant, held the position of CEO of Joseph Foodservice, Inc., an international food service distribution business. Joseph sold that business to Institutional Jobbers, Inc. in 1997. Then, from 1997 through 1998, Joseph formed a joint venture with Institutional Jobbers and prepared and negotiated a request for proposal to provide food and non-food supplies to the United States Armed Forces in Northern Europe. The joint venture received the contract in 1998, and Joseph worked from 1998 through 2000 providing services related to the supply contract with the Department of Defense. The contract ended in 2002, which corresponds with Joseph's allegation of the onset of his disability due to bilateral hearing loss.[2]

In 2002, Joseph formed a new joint venture between another company he owned, International Initiatives, Inc., Sysco Foodservice, Inc., and Axiom Logistiks, Gmbh., a German company. As a part of this endeavor, Joseph composed a request for proposal to supply food and non-food supplies to the United States Armed Forces in Europe and the Middle East. The proposal ...


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