Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Davey
123 U.S. 739 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Davey, 123 U.S. 739 (1887)

Aetna Life Insurance Company v. Davey

Argued November 23, 1387

Decided December 19, 1887

123 U.S. 739

Syllabus

A policy of life insurance contained questions to the applicant with his answers, and provisions that the answers were warranted to be true, and that the policy should be void if they were in any respect false or fraudulent. Among these questions and answers were the following:

"5. Q. Are the habits of the party sober and temperate?"

"A. Yes."

"6. Q. Has the party ever been addicted to the excessive or intemperate use of any alcoholic stimulants or opium, or does he use any of them often or daily?"

"A. No."

It also contained a provision that if the applicant should become so far intemperate as to impair health or induce delirium tremens, it should become void. After the death of the assured, the insurer defended against an action on the policy by setting up (1) that the answers to these questions were false, and (2) that the deceased, after the issue of the policy, became intemperate, impaired his health thereby, and induced delirium tremens.

Held:

(1) That an instruction to the jury as to question 6 that they could not find the answer to be untrue unless the assured had, prior to the issue of the policy, been addicted to the excessive or intemperate use of alcoholic stimulants or opium, or at the time of the application, habitually used some of them often or daily, was a correct

Page 123 U. S. 740

construction of the language of question 6, as interpreted in connection with question 6.

(2) That if the death was substantially caused by the excessive use of alcoholic stimulants, not taken for medical purposes or under medical advice, the assured's health was impaired by intemperance within the meaning of the policy, although he might not have had delirium tremens, and although he had not indulged in strong drink for such a long period of time or so frequently as to become habitually intemperate, and that it was for the jury to determine whether the death was so caused.

This was an action in the nature of assumpsit upon a policy of insurance. Judgment for plaintiff. Defendant sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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