The Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Maples v. Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co., E2015-00285-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015). The Maples case dealt with fire damage to the Maples’ home in Crossville, Tennessee, insured with Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company.  Coverage was denied on August 26, 2013.  Suit was filed on August 6, 2014, against Tennessee Farmers along with the insurance agent and agency.  Maples asserted the agent was negligent because he was aware Maples had prior felony convictions that never made it onto the insurance application and failed to procure insurance.

Defendants filed motions based upon the suit limitation clause of the policy requiring full compliance with all terms of the policy and that any legal action concerning the policy brought within one year from the date of loss.  Id.  The trial court granted summary judgment and dismissed the case completely.  Id.  Maples contended, however, that the actions against the agent and agency survived even if summary judgment granted to Tennessee Farmers was proper.

The Court of Appeals cited abundant case law that even though there is a six-year statute of limitations in Tennessee for contracts, but that  changes to the applicable statute of limitations by contract are enforceable.  Id.  Because the fire occurred March 25, 2013, and suit filed August 6, 2014, (more than one year and 60 days from March 25, 2013), the suit was time barred.

The Court of Appeals also dealt with the issue and claim that the agent or agency acted improperly in the procurement of the policy.  The court held if Maples had instituted the suit timely, he would have had the opportunity to raise any claims of irregularities in obtaining the policy.  However, when he failed to initiate suit within the contractual limitations period, the issues regarding the policy and its issuance became moot and irrelevant.  Thus, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court properly dismissed actions against the agent and agency.