Stipcich v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.
277 U.S. 311 (1928)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Stipcich v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 277 U.S. 311 (1928)

Stipcich v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.

No. 97

Argued November 30, 1927

Aargued March 6, 1928

Decided May 21, 1928

277 U.S. 311

Syllabus

1. An applicant for life insurance who, after signing the application and before delivery of the policy, discovers a change in his physical condition seriously affecting his health and rendering statements in his application which are material to the risk no longer true is under a duty to inform the insurer fully, and his failure to do so will constitute a defense to an action on the policy. So held where the ailment so discovered was the cause of the death of the insured. P. 277 U. S. 316.

2. This duty does not rest upon the stipulations of the parties, but is one imposed by law as the result of their relationship and because of the peculiar character of the insurance contract as a contract uberrimae dei. Pp. 277 U. S. 316-318.

3. A state statute providing that

"any person who shall solicit and procure an application for life insurance shall, in all matters relating to such application for insurance and the policy issued in consequence thereof, be regarded as the agent of the company issuing the policy, and not the agent of the insured,"

and avoiding all provisions in the application or policy to the contrary, controls policies issued after its enactment and empowers the agent to receive from the applicant, on behalf of the company, a disclosure of a change in the applicant's health occurring after the making of the application and affecting the validity of the insurance if not disclosed. P. 277 U. S. 320.

4. Under such a statute, a clause printed in a life insurance application, embodied in the policy, denying the authority of the soliciting and forwarding agent to vary the terms of the contract, waive conditions, or receive information sought by questions in the application other than that embodied in it -- held inapplicable to receipt of information from the applicant as to a change in his health after the making and forwarding of the application and before delivery of the policy. P. 277 U. S. 321.

Page 277 U. S. 312

5. A provision in a life insuance application that any knowledge on the part of any agent as to any fact pertaining to the applicant shall not be considered as having been brougt to the knowledge of the company unless stated in the application should not be construed as applying to knowledge affecting the risk which insured acquired and communicated to the company's agent after the application was signed and delivered to the agent and sent to the company's home office in another state. P. 277 U. S. 321.

6. Narrow and unreasonable interpretations of clauses in an insurance policy are not favored. When open with equal reason to two constructions, the one most favorable to the insured will be adopted. P. 277 U. S. 322.

7. A defense set up in all answer, but not considered in the court below nor pressed n this one, and which depends on testimony ambiguous in character or excluded upon the trial, will not be passed upon by this Court. Id.

Reversed.

Review of a judgment of the district court for the insurance company in a suit on a life insurance policy. The case went to the circuit court of appeals and was ordered up here in its entirety after that court had certified certain questions concerning it.

Page 277 U. S. 314

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