Stoner v. New York Life Ins. Co.
311 U.S. 464 (1940)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stoner v. New York Life Ins. Co., 311 U.S. 464 (1940)

Stoner v. New York Life Insurance Co.

No. 74

Argued November 13, 1940

Decided December 23, 1940

311 U.S. 464

Syllabus

In suits against an insurer upon policies providing for payment of benefits and waiver of premiums in the event of the insured's "total disability," an intermediate appellate court of Missouri had held that the evidence for the insured was sufficient to go to the jury. Subsequently, the insurer sued the insured in a federal court in that State for a declaratory judgment that it was no longer obliged to pay disability benefits or to waive payment of premiums. In this suit, the parties were the same as in the earlier suits in the state courts, the issues were identical, and the evidence consisted of a transcript of the evidence in one of the state court suits, supplemented only by additional items introduced by, and favorable to, the insured. The suit was tried without a jury, and judgment was for the insured.

Held:

1. Reversal by the Circuit Court of Appeals, with direction to enter a declaratory judgment for the insurer, was erroneous. P. 311 U. S. 467.

2. The decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals, determining in effect that the evidence on the issue of total disability required a finding

Page 311 U. S. 465

for the insurer, was inconsistent with the state law as announced by the intermediate appellate court of the State, and the Circuit Court of Appeals was bound to follow the state law as thus announced, since there is no indication that it would not be followed in like case by the intermediate appellate court of the State or by the state supreme court. P. 311 U. S. 468.

3. That, in the earlier suits, the burden was on the insured to prove disability, while here the Courts below assumed that the burden was on the insurer to show that disability no longer existed, is immaterial. P. 311 U. S. 469.

4. The requisite jurisdictional amount was involved, for it was exceeded by the sum of the benefit payment and the premiums in controversy. P. 311 U. S. 469.

109 F.2d 874 reversed.

Certiorari, post, p. 628, to review the reversal of a judgment against the insurance company in a suit involving the question of its liability upon disability provisions of contracts of life insurance.

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