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Individual Life Insurance Policies Unenforceable Because Insured Did Not Sign Applications or Give Written Consent

Individual Life Insurance Policies Unenforceable Because Insured Did Not Sign Applications or Give Written Consent

Youngblood v. North Carolina Mut. Life Ins. Co., Case A13A1946 (Ga. Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2014)

(May 30, 2014)

With the assistance of an insurance agent, Youngblood signed her brother’s name to applications for two policies insuring her brother’s life. At the time, the brother resided in Japan. The applications were signed in Georgia, reportedly at the brother’s request and with his consent. The policies were issued in 2009, designating Youngblood as her brother’s beneficiary.

When her brother died in Japan in 2011, Youngblood submitted a claim for death benefits under the policies. North Carolina Mutual denied the claim, based on discrepancies in the applications concerning the brother’s name and date of birth.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Youngblood, North Carolina Mutual asserted that the policies were void ab initio and unenforceable because they were obtained in violation of O.C.G.A. § 33-24-6(a). Subject to certain exceptions which were not applicable, the statute provides that no individual life insurance contract “shall be made or effectuated unless at the time of the making of the contract the individual insured, being of competent legal capacity to contract, applies for [the] life … insurance contract or consents in writing to the contract ….”

The trial court granted summary judgment to North Carolina Mutual. The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed, stating: “Although Youngblood testified … that she had her brother’s oral and written consent to apply for the insurance on his behalf, it is clear that the brother did not personally apply for the insurance, and Youngblood was unable to produce the alleged written consent of her brother in response to summary judgment. Furthermore, the brother’s oral consent is insufficient because O.C.G.A. § 33-4-6(a) specifically requires such consent to be in writing.”

The court stated that “[t]he logical purpose of the statute is to put beyond all doubt the issue of whether the coverage was obtained with the knowledge and consent of the individual insured, and the purpose and requirements of the statute ‘would be rendered meaningless if one could meet its terms by alleging consent to have been verbally authorized, something the deceased insured would hardly be in a position to dispute.’” Citing Wood v. New York Life Ins. Co., 255 Ga. 300, 336 S.E.2d 806 (1985).

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H. Sanders Carter
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Kenton J. Coppage
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Dorothy H. Cornwell
T (404) 962-1096
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