Phoenix Life Ins. Co. v. Raddin
120 U.S. 183 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Phoenix Life Ins. Co. v. Raddin, 120 U.S. 183 (1887)

Phoenix Life Insurance Company v. Raddin

Argued December 20-21, 1886

Decided January 31, 1887

120 U.S. 183

Syllabus

Answers to questions propounded by insurers in an application for life insurance, unless they are clearly shown by the form of the contract to have been intended by both parties to be warranties, to be strictly complied with, are to be construed as representations, as to which substantial truth in everything material to the risk is all that is required of the applicant.

Where upon the face of an application for life insurance, a direct question of the insurers appears to be not answered at all, or to be imperfectly answered, the issue of the policy without further inquiry is a waiver of the want or imperfection of the answer, and renders the omission to answer more fully immaterial.

A policy of life insurance stated that it was issued and accepted by the assured upon certain express conditions, one of which was that

"if any of the declarations or statements made in the application for this policy, upon the faith of which this policy is issued, shall be found in any respect untrue, this policy shall be null and void."

The application contained a

Page 120 U. S. 184

number of printed questions "to be answered by the person whose life is proposed to be insured," and "declared that the above are fair and true answers to the foregoing questions," and that it was agreed by the applicant "that this application shall form the basis of the contract for insurance," "and that any untrue or fraudulent answers or any suppression of facts" should avoid the policy. One of those questions was:

"Has any application been made to this or any other company for assurance on the life of the party? If so, with what result? What amounts are now assured on the life of the party, and in what companies?"

To this question the applicant answered, "$10,000, Equitable Life Assurance Society." A policy of that society was in fact the only other existing insurance. Held that the answers were not warranties, but representations, and that the issue of a policy, without further inquiry, was a waiver of the right of the insurers to require further answers as to the particulars mentioned in the question and estopped them to set up that the omission, though intentional, to disclose unsuccessful applications for additional insurance was material, and avoided the policy.

A bill of exceptions should not contain the whole charge of the court to the jury, but should only state distinctly the several matters of law excepted to.

A bill of exceptions cannot be sustained to an instruction or to a refusal to instruct in matter of law without showing that there was evidence to which the instruction given or refused was applicable.

The acceptance by insurers of payment of a premium after they know that there has been a breach of a condition of the policy is a waiver of the right to avoid the policy for that breach.

Where the declaration in an action on a policy of insurance alleges that the consideration of the contract was the payment of a certain premium at once and of future annual premiums, and the policy given in evidence is expressed to be made "in consideration of the representations made in the application for this policy" and of the sums paid and to be paid for premiums, and the application contains no promise or agreement of the assured, there is no variance.

This was an action at law to recover upon a policy of life insurance issued by the plaintiff in error. Verdict for the plaintiff below, and judgment on the verdict. The defendant below sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 120 U. S. 186

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