Jeffries v. Life Insurance Company
89 U.S. 47 (1874)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Jeffries v. Life Insurance Company, 89 U.S. 22 Wall. 47 47 (1874)

Jeffries v. Life Insurance Company

89 U.S. (22 Wall.) 47

Syllabus

Where a policy of life insurance contains the following conditions, to-wit:

"This policy is issued by the company and accepted by the assured on the following express conditions and agreements, which are a part of the contract of insurance:"

"First. That the statements and declaration made in the application for said policy, and on the faith of which it is issued, are in all respects true and without the suppression of any fact relating to the health or circumstances of the insured effecting the interest of the company:"

And the further condition:

"That in case of the violation of the foregoing condition, . . . this policy shall become null and void."

Any answer untrue in fact, and known by the applicant for insurance to be so, avoids the policy irrespective of the question of the materiality of the answer given to the risk.

Accordingly, where, in a suit against an insurance company, the plea alleged that the party insured, by his application for a policy, in answer

Page 89 U. S. 48

to a question asked of him by the insurance company, whether he was "married or single," made the false statement that he was "single," knowing it to be untrue; that in reply to a further question whether "any application had been made to any other company? If so, when?", answered

"'No,' whereas in fact, at the time of making such false statement, he knew that he had previously made application for such insurance and been insured in the sum of $10,000 by another company, a demurrer to the plea was held bad, though the plea did not aver that the information on the questions to which that false answers were made 'affected the interest of the company,' or in other words, was material to the risk."

Jeffries, administrator of Kennedy, sued the Economical Life Insurance Company, of Providence, Rhode Island, in the court below, alleging that on the 19th of October, 1870, the said company issued a policy of insurance upon the life of the deceased for $5,000; that Kennedy died in August, 1871, and that notice had been given to the company of his death, payment of the amount of insurance demanded and refused.

The policy, which the declaration set out at length, contained the clauses following, viz.:

"This policy is issued by the company, and accepted by the insured and the holder thereof, on the following express conditions and agreements, which are part of this contract of insurance:"

"1st. That the statements and declarations made in the application for this policy, and on the faith of which it is issued, are in all respects true, and without the suppression of any fact relating to the health or circumstances of the insured, affecting the interests of said company."

"6th. That in case of the violation of the foregoing conditions, or any of them, . . . this policy shall become null and void."

The plea averred:

"That the policy was issued and accepted, on the following express conditions and agreements contained in it and made part of the contract of insurance, to-wit, that the statements and declaration made in the application for the policy, and on the faith of

Page 89 U. S. 49

which it was issued, were in all respects true, and without the suppression of any fact relating to the health or circumstances of the assured affecting the interests of the defendants, and upon the further condition that in case of the violation of the aforesaid condition, among others, the policy should become null and void."

"That the said Kennedy did violate the first condition in this, that the statements and declarations made by him in his application for the said policy, were not in all respects true, but were false in the following respects, to-wit:"

"1st. That in the application for the policy, and on the faith of which the same was issued, in answer to the question therein asked of him as to whether he was married or single, he stated that he was single, whereas in fact he was married, having a wife then living, as he well knew."

"2d. That in the application for the policy, and on the faith of which it was issued, in reply to the question therein asked of him, 'Has any application been made to any other company; if so, when?' he answered 'No,' whereas in fact, he had, prior thereto, to-wit, in April, 1870, applied for insurance upon his life, to the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, and had been insured therein in the sum of $10,000, as at the time of making the said answer, he well knew."

To this plea the plaintiff demurred, but the court overruled the demurrer, and entered judgment for the company. From the judgment so entered, the present writ of error was brought.

The demurrer admitting that the statements made in the application were false, the question in the case, of course, was this: "Was the plea bad because it did not aver also, that the false statements were material to the risk?"

Page 89 U. S. 52

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.