Crotty v. Union Mut. Life Ins. Co.
144 U.S. 621 (1892)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Crotty v. Union Mut. Life Ins. Co., 144 U.S. 621 (1892)

Crotty v. Union Mutual Life Insurance Company

No. 248

Argued March 28, 1892

Decided April 18, 1892

144 U.S. 621

Syllabus

A promise by the insurer in a policy of life insurance to pay the amount of the policy on the death of the assured to " M. C., his creditor, if living," if not then to the executors, etc. of the assured, is a promise to pay to that creditor if he continues to he a creditor, and if not, then to the executors, etc., and in an action on the policy by the creditor, if sufficient time elapsed between the making of the policy and the death of the assured to warrant an assumption that the debt may have been paid, it is incumbent on the plaintiff to prove the continuance of the relation and the amount of the debt.

The fact that an insurance company does not object to answers made to questions on a blank sent out by it for securing proof of the death of

Page 144 U. S. 622

the assured does not prevent it from challenging the truth of any statement in such answers.

Life Insurance Company v. Francisco, 17 Wall. 672, distinguished from this case.

On January 31, 1883, defendant in error, defendant below, insured the life of Michael O'Brien. The language of the policy was this:

"Does promise Michael O'Brien, of Lockford, in the State of California, to pay to said Michael O'Brien the sum of ten thousand dollars (any indebtedness to the company on account of this contract to be first deducted therefrom) at the office of the company in Portland, Maine, on the fifteenth day of January, in the year nineteen hundred and forty-one, or, if said Michael O'Brien shall die before that time, to pay said sum within ninety days after notice and satisfactory proofs of death shall have been furnished to the company at its said office, to Michael Crotty, his creditor, if living; if not, then to the said Michael O'Brien's executors, administrators, or assigns, upon the following conditions."

On January 2, 1885, plaintiff in error, plaintiff below, commenced his action in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of California to recover on the policy. The complaint contained these allegations:

"Third. That plaintiff was at the time of effecting said policy of insurance, and at the time of the death of said Michael O'Brien, a creditor of said Michael O'Brien for various sums of money, which this plaintiff had at various times advanced to the said Michael O'Brien, amounting to several thousand dollars, and as such creditor had a valuable interest in the life of said Michael O'Brien."

"Fourth. That on the 15th day of September, 1883 at the City of Boston, State of Massachusetts, the said Michael O'Brien died."

"Fifth. That on the 14th day of January, 1884, plaintiff furnished the defendant with proof of the death of said Michael O'Brien in this case, and otherwise performed all the conditions of the said policy of insurance on his part."

The answer denied specifically that O'Brien was ever indebted to plaintiff, and denied that plaintiff ever performed

Page 144 U. S. 623

the conditions of the policy, except by furnishing proofs of the death of O'Brien. In the proofs of death, which were on a blank furnished by the insurance company, were these questions and answers: "(3) In what capacity or in what title do you make the claim? As creditor and beneficiary named in the policy." "(17) If the claim is made under an assignment, give the date, name of assignor, and the consideration. The claim by me as creditor of deceased and beneficiary named in the policy." On the trial, the only evidence furnished by the plaintiff of his interest in the policy was that contained in the policy itself and in these two statements in the proofs of death. The court instructed the jury to find a verdict for the defendant, to reverse which judgment plaintiff sued out this writ of error.

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