(CN) – A man blinded by oven cleaner will get another shot at the insurer that denied his claims, the 8th Circuit ruled.
Kenneth Graham suffered “permanent vision loss in both eyes” in 2005 when a can of Easy-Off oven cleaner exploded in his face.
Graham was covered by an accidental death and dismemberment policy issued by defendant Hartford Life Insurance Company, which included benefits for loss of sight, at the time of the accident.
Though he filed a proof of loss within 90 days, Hartford denied Graham’s claim and a subsequent appeal.
Graham took the matter to Federal Court in 2010, but the Eastern District of Arkansas dismissed because he sued more than 3 years after the accident – outside the policy’s time limitations for bringing legal actions against Hartford.
Undeterred, Graham appealed, and argued the action was valid under Arkansas’s 5-year statute of limitations for breach of contract.
Last week 8th Circuit Judges James Loken, Kermit Bye and Michael Melloy reversed and remanded the district court’s decision.
Graham cited Section 23-79-202 of the Arkansas Code, which states that “[a]ny stipulation or provision in the policy or contract requiring the action to be brought within any shorter time or be barred is void.”
Judge Bye found that “Hartford’s policy provision, shortening the period for him to file suit to a period of less than five years, contravenes the statutory requirement. We agree.”
Bye added: “The district court relied on several Arkansas cases which generally allow insurance companies to contract for a shorter limitations period than the period provided by the applicable statute of limitations, as long as the period is reasonable. The district court also denied Graham’s request to certify the issue to the Arkansas Supreme Court. …
“The period prescribed by Arkansas law for bringing actions on promises in writing is five years. …
“Hartford’s policy impermissibly shortened the time for Graham to bring an action on his life insurance policy to something less than five years. Such provision in the policy is therefore void …”