299 U.S. 178 (1936), 146, John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Yates

Docket Nº:No. 146
Citation:299 U.S. 178, 57 S.Ct. 129, 81 L.Ed. 106
Party Name:John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Yates
Case Date:December 07, 1936
Court:United States Supreme Court

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299 U.S. 178 (1936)

57 S.Ct. 129, 81 L.Ed. 106

John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co.



No. 146

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 7, 1936

Submitted November 18, 1936



By statute of the State in which a contract of life insurance was made and where the insured died, the policy, with application annexed, constituted the entire contract of the parties, and a false statement in the application, that the applicant had not received medical advice within a specified time preceding the application, must be taken as a material misrepresentation avoiding the policy even though, in the making of the application, a truthful answer on the subject was orally given the company's agent, but not recorded by him.


1. The right of the Insurance Company to escape liability under the policy because of the falsity of the written representation, without regard to oral statements made by the insured to the Company's examiner at the time when the application was made, was a substantive right conferred by the statute. P. 182.

2. Recognition of this right in an action on the policy in another State would not give the statute extra-territorial effect, but would merely be a recognition that the parties, by their contract, had subjected themselves to the statutory conditions. Id.

3. Refusal by the courts of another State to recognize the right thus arising under the statute was a failure to give full faith and credit to a "public act" of the State in which the contract was made and the cause of action accrued. Const., Art. IV, § 1. P. 183.

4. Such refusal could not be justified as a matter appertaining to the local remedy. P. 182.

5. Where a contract of life insurance is made wholly in and subject to the laws of one State, the law of another State cannot determine the substantive rights created by the contract. Id.

182 Ga. 213, 185 S.E. 268, reversed.

Certiorari to review a judgment sustaining a recovery on a policy of life insurance. The decision of the intermediate

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state court is reported in 50 Ga.App. 713; 179 S.E. 239.

BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In May, 1932, the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a Massachusetts corporation, insured the life of Harmon H. Yates, agreeing to pay upon his death $2,000 to his wife. The policy was applied for, issued, and delivered in New York, where he and his wife resided, and they remained there until his death of cancer in the following month. Then his widow removed to Georgia, and brought, in a court of that state, this suit on the policy. The case was tried before a jury.

The Company contended that, since the contract was made in New York, the existence of liability thereon is...

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