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Genworth Life Insurance Company v. Commissioner of Insurance

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

June 3, 2019

GENWORTH LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE.

          Heard October 4, 2018.

          Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on January 9, 2017.

         The case was heard by Janet L. Sanders, J., on motions for summary judgment.

          Reid L. Ashinoff, of New York (Carter White, of New York, _& Dean Richlin also present) for the plaintiff.

          Timothy J. Casey, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendant.

          Present: Green, C.J., Hanlon, & Maldonado, JJ.

          HANLON, J.

         The plaintiff, Genworth Life Insurance Company (Genworth), appeals from a decision of a Superior Court judge granting summary judgment for the Commissioner of Insurance (commissioner)-[1] The judge concluded that Genworth had not followed the proper procedure to secure approval for proposed rate increases for long-term care insurance. We affirm.

         Background.

         In December 2012, Genworth filed a request to increase very substantially the rates of its long-term care insurance policies. Each policy at issue provided that the premiums may not be increased unless "approved by the Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance." In a bulletin released in 2008 (2008-08 bulletin), the commissioner announced that, beginning January 1, 2009, all filings by insurance carriers doing business in Massachusetts must be made using the Division of Insurance's (division) system for electronic rate and form filing (SERFF).[2] As the division explained in the 2008-08 bulletin, "The use of SERFF improves the Division's ability to review filings, communicate with insurance carriers, and prepare public records because it utilizes a paperless environment in which all submitted materials are stored instantly in a central location and in a pre-arranged format."

         SERFF permits the insurance carrier to request a specific implementation date for a rate increase that is no sooner than thirty days after the filing. If no date is requested, the effective, or implementation, "[d]ate will be the date the filing is placed on file or approved." At any time, an insurer may change a rate increase from no date for implementation to a specified implementation date by giving proper notice of such action to the division through SERFF.

         The judge determined that "[t]here is no dispute that Genworth was very familiar with SERFF and the rules that surrounded it." In fact, Genworth filed its 2012 request for rate increases through SERFF. In that filing, Genworth requested that the proposed increases become effective "on approval." Genworth, at least twice, amended its filings through SERFF to change the requested rate increase, but never made any filing through SERFF that sought a specific deadline for the implementation of its requested rate increases.

         After the rate increase request was filed, representatives of the division and Genworth engaged in negotiations and other exchanges until July 26, 2016, when the parties met again and Genworth expressed frustration about the delays in the process. On October 21, 2016, Genworth sent letters to the commissioner through e-mail and Federal Express, but not through SERFF.[3] [4] Each letter stated that it constituted formal notice that Genworth's proposed rates would take effect on November 21, 2016, ...


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