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Larson v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 18, 2013

Jacky L. Larson, Appellant,
v.
The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Respondent, CM Information Specialists, Inc., Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-11-24103

Katherine L. MacKinnon, Sarah J. Demers, Katherine L. MacKinnon, P.L.L.C., St. Louis Park, Minnesota (for appellant)

Erik T. Salveson, Benjamin J. Rolf, Nilan Johnson Lewis, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company)

Mark R. Bradford, Daniel R. Olson, Louis J. Speltz, Bassford Remele, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent CMInformation Specialists, Inc.)

Jeanneane L. Jansen, Jansen & Palmer, L.L.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Scott Wilson, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for Amicus MN Association for Justice)

Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.

STONEBURNER, Judge

Appellant, beneficiary of a life-insurance policy obtained by decedent from respondent insurer, challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing

(1)breach-of-contract claims against respondent insurer for rescinding the policy after discovering that decedent provided false information in his application for coverage and

(2)claims alleging violation of the Minnesota Health Care Act and negligent misrepresentation against a medical-records contractor that failed to provide insurer with all medical records authorized for release by decedent. Appellant also challenges the district court's order denying relief in the form of adverse inferences against insurer for alleged spoliation of evidence. We affirm.

FACTS

James Larson (decedent) was a patient at the Fairview Ridges Clinic in Burnsville (Fairview). His primary-care physician was Dr. Alfred Lounsbury. In December 2004, decedent experienced recurring chest pain that concerned him because his father and brother had died after suffering heart attacks. Decedent, without seeking a referral through Dr. Lounsbury, scheduled an appointment with cardiologist Dr. William Hession, who had previously treated decedent's wife, appellant Jacky Larson.

On December 23, 2004, Dr. Hession wrote to Dr. Lounsbury stating that he had seen decedent "in Cardiology consultation, " and noting that he had previously seen decedent "several years ago at the Minnesota Heart Clinic with complaints of chest pain." Dr. Hession reported that decedent's December 23, 2004 examination was "completely unremarkable" but noted that he was "setting [decedent] up for a CAT scan angiogram of his coronary arteries." Dr. Hession reported the results of the CAT scan angiogram to Dr. Lounsbury by letter dated January 14, 2005. Dr. Hession's letters to Dr. Lounsbury were not copied to decedent, and the record does not reflect whether decedent was aware that Dr. Hession had contacted Dr. Lounsbury.

On June 7, 2005, in preparation for surgery by a dermatologist, decedent signed a medical-records-release form authorizing Fairview to release history and physical-exam records to Twin Cities Cosmetic Surgery. On a space on the form for identifying other records to be released, "Dr. Hessian's Heart Report" appears in unidentified handwriting. The release specifies that the release is for treatment from "3/05 to 6/05."

On November 30, 2007, decedent met with an agent of respondent Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (insurer) and completed an application for a life-insurance policy in the amount of $673, 479, naming appellant as the sole beneficiary. During that process, decedent signed a medical-records-release form, authorizing all health-care providers to release to insurer all of decedent's medical records from the previous ten years. On December 3, 2007, decedent met with insurer's paramedical examiner to complete a medical-history questionnaire. Decedent provided the following relevant information on that questionnaire:

Q: In the past 10 years, have you had, been told by a health practitioner you had, or been tested or treated ...

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