Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Moore - 231 U.S. 543 (1913)
U.S. Supreme Court
Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Moore, 231 U.S. 543 (1913)
Aetna Life Insurance Company v. Moore
Argued November 3, 1913
Decided December 22, 1913
231 U.S. 543
The character of the covenants of a contract for life insurance depends upon the law of the state where made. The Code of Georgia expressly provides that the application must be made in good faith and that the representations are covenanted by the applicant as true, and any variations changing the character of the risk will void the policy.
The law of Georgia as determined by its highest court, prior to the adoption of the Code, was that insurer and insured may make their own contract and determine what representations are material.
The highest court of Georgia has decided that mere immaterial matters, although declared to be warranties, do not void a policy even though the policy declares them to be such, and that, under the Code, the parties themselves could not contract to make immaterial matter material.
In order for an insurance company, defending on the ground of false statements in the application, to have a verdict directed, it must establish that the representations were material to the risk and were untrue.
A representation that the applicant for insurance has never been rejected by any company, association, or agents is material to the risk and is not true if he has withdrawn an application at the suggestion
of the medical adviser, and with the knowledge that the company to whom the application was made was about to reject it.
Applicant for insurance are competent to make agreement in the policy that no person other than the executive officer of the company can vary its terms, and such an agreement is binding when made.
A decision of the highest court of a state on a principle of general jurisprudence is not controlling upon this Court. Kuhn v. Fairmont Coal Co., 215 U. S. 349.
Where to cases are consolidated by the court below because it appears reasonable to do so under § 921, Rev.Stat., and this Court doubts the reasonableness of the consolidation, it need not pass upon that subject definitely if, as in this case, a new trial is ordered on other grounds.
The facts, which involve the validity of a verdict and judgment on a policy of life insurance, are stated in the opinion.