Accident Ins. Co. v. Crandal
120 U.S. 527 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Accident Ins. Co. v. Crandal, 120 U.S. 527 (1887)

Accident Insurance Company v. Crandal

Submitted December 21, 1886

Decided March 7, 1887

120 U.S. 527

Syllabus

The refusal of the court to instruct the jury at the close of the plaintiff's evidence that he is not entitled to recover cannot be assigned for error if the defendant afterwards introduces evidence.

A policy of insurance against "bodily injuries, effected through external, accidental and violent means," and occasioning death or complete disability to do business, provided that

"this insurance shall not extend to death or disability which may have been caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or disease, or by suicide, or self-inflicted injuries,"

covers a death by hanging one's self while insane.

Statements in an application for a policy of insurance expressing the applicant's understanding of what will be the effect of the insurance cannot control the legal construction of the policy afterwards issued and accepted, although the application warrants the facts stated therein to be true, and the policy is expressed to be made "in consideration of the warranties made in the application."

This was an action against an accident insurance company upon a policy beginning thus:

"In consideration of the warranties made in the application for this insurance, and of the sum of fifty dollars, this company hereby insures Edward M. Crandal, by occupation, profession, or employment a president of the Crandal Manufacturing Company,"

in the sum of ten thousand dollars for twelve months, ending May 23, 1885, payable to his wife, the original plaintiff,

"within thirty days after sufficient proof that the insured at any time within the continuance of this policy, shall have sustained bodily injuries, effected through external, accidental, and violent means, within the intent and meaning of this contract, and the conditions hereunto annexed, and such injuries alone shall have occasioned death within ninety days from the happening thereof, or, if the insured shall sustain bodily injuries by means as aforesaid, which shall, independently of all other causes, immediately and

Page 120 U. S. 528

wholly disable and prevent him from the prosecution of any and every kind of business pertaining to the occupation under which he is insured, then, on satisfactory proof of such injuries, he shall be indemnified against loss of time caused thereby in the sum of fifty dollars per week for such period of continuous total disability as shall immediately follow the accident and injuries as aforesaid, not exceeding, however, twenty-six consecutive weeks from the time of the happening of such accident."

Then followed certain conditions, the material part of which was as follows:

"Provided always that this insurance shall not extend to hernia, nor any bodily injury of which there shall be no external and visible sign, nor to death or disability which may have been caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or disease or by the taking of poison or by any surgical operation or medical or mechanical treatment, and no claim shall be made under this policy when the death or injury may have been caused by dueling, fighting, wrestling, unnecessary lifting, or by overexertion or by suicide or by freezing or sunstroke or self-inflicted injuries."

The application was signed by the assured, and began as follows:

"The undersigned hereby applies for a policy of insurance against bodily injuries effected through external and accidental violence, said policy to be based upon the following statement of facts, which I hereby warrant to be true."

The rest of the application consisted of fifteen numbered paragraphs stating the name, age, residence, and occupation of the applicant, the amount, term, and payee of the policy applied for; affirming that he had never been "subject to fits, disorders of the brain, or any bodily or mental infirmity;" that he had not "in contemplation any special journey or any hazardous undertaking," and that his "habits of life are correct and temperate;" and expressing his understanding of the effect of the insurance in several particulars, the last of which was as follows:

"15. I am aware that this insurance will not extend to hernia, nor to any bodily injury of which there shall be no

Page 120 U. S. 529

external and visible sign, nor to any bodily injury happening directly or indirectly in consequence of disease, nor to death or disability caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or by disease, or by the taking of poison, or by any surgical operation or medical or mechanical treatment, nor to any case except when the accidental injury shall be the proximate and sole cause of disability or death."

The assured died July 7, 1884, and the plaintiff soon afterwards gave to the defendant written notice and proofs of the death which stated that the assured, while temporarily insane, hanged himself with a pair of suspenders attached to a door-knob in his bedroom. At the trial, the plaintiff introduced evidence that the death of the assured was caused by strangulation from his so hanging himself, and, against the defendant's objection and exception, was permitted to introduce evidence tending to show that he was insane at the time. At the close of the plaintiff's evidence, the defendant moved the court to instruct the jury that under the law and the evidence in the case, the plaintiff was not entitled to recover. The court overruled the motion, and the defendant excepted. The defendant then introduced evidence, and the case was argued to the jury.

The jury, under instructions to which no exception was taken, and in answer to specific questions from the court, returned a special verdict that Edward M. Crandal made the application; that the defendant issued the policy; that the premiums were fully paid, and the policy was in force at the time of his death; that he hanged himself on July 7, 1884, and thereof died on the same day; that he was insane at the time of his act of self-destruction, and that due notice and proof of death were given to the defendant; and, according to what, upon these facts, the opinion of the court in matter of law might be, found for the plaintiff in the full amount of the policy, or for the defendant. The court overruled a motion for a new trial and rendered judgment on the verdict for the plaintiff. 27 F. 40. The defendant sued out this writ of error.

Page 120 U. S. 530

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