Edwards v. Business Men's Assurance Co., No. 38104.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtDalton
Citation168 S.W.2d 82
PartiesLONNIE W. EDWARDS, Appellant, v. BUSINESS MEN'S ASSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, a Corporation.
Decision Date15 December 1942
Docket NumberNo. 38104.
168 S.W.2d 82
LONNIE W. EDWARDS, Appellant,
v.
BUSINESS MEN'S ASSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, a Corporation.
No. 38104.
Supreme Court of Missouri.
Division One, December 15, 1942.
Rehearing Denied, January 19, 1943.

[168 S.W.2d 85]

Appeal from Circuit Court of City of St. Louis.Hon. James F. Nangle, Judge.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

E. McD. Stevens and N. Murry Edwards for appellant.

(1) It is admitted that the insured's death was caused by a gunshot wound. There were no eyewitnesses to the infliction of the wound. The evidence surrounding the event is wholly circumstantial. The law therefore presumes that the injury was accidental and not suicidal. It was a jury question as to whether or not the infliction of the gunshot wound was accidental. The court did not err in instructing the jury on behalf of plaintiff that if they found that the insured's death was caused by accident to find for plaintiff under the accident insurance policy sued upon herein. Reynolds v. Maryland Cas. Co., 201 S.W. 1128; Brunswick v. Standard Acc. Ins. Co., 213 S.W. 45; Griffith v. Continental Cas. Co., 235 S.W. 83; Trembley v. Fidelity & Casualty Co., 243 S.W. 201; Kahn v. Metropolitan Cas. Co., 240 S.W. 793; Parker v. Aetna Ins. Co., 232 S.W. 708. (2) The court erred in giving defendant's Instruction 6 and in said instruction telling the jury that a self-inflicted or suicidal death is not an accidental death, and in further instructing the jury that "It is only when the insured is insane that his suicidal or self-inflicted death would become an accidental death." Parker v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 232 S.W. 708; Tyson v. Bernhard, 17 S.W. (2d) 270; Gates v. Dr. Nichols' Sanitarium, 55 S.W. (2d) 424; Streicher v. Mercantile Trust, 31 S.W. (2d) 1065; Barr v. Mo. Pac. R. Co., 37 S.W. (2d) 927. (3) The court erred in giving defendant's Instruction No. 8 and in said instruction eliminating the question of accidental injury and death from the case and in assuming that the insured committed suicide and in placing the burden of proof as to whether the insured was insane upon the plaintiff and in telling the jury that the sole test of determining whether the insured was insane was whether or not the insured was aware of the moral consequences of his act. Gates v. Dr. Nichols' Sanitarium, 55 S.W. (2d) 424; Taylor v. Kansas City, 112 S.W. (2d) 562; Kirkham v. Jenkins Music Co., 104 S.W. (2d) 234; Counts v. Thomas, 63 S.W. (2d) 416; Reynolds v. Maryland Cas. Co., 201 S.W. 1128; Kahn v. Metropolitan Ins. Co., 240 S.W. 793; Andrus v. Business Men's Acc. Assn., 223 S.W. 70; Gates v. Travelers Ins. Co., 218 S.W. 927. (4) The court erred in giving defendant's Instruction 9 and in telling the jury in said instruction that the sole test of insanity was whether the insured was able to appreciate and understand the moral consequences of his act when insured shot himself, and in directing a verdict and in ignoring and excluding the question of accidental death from the consideration of the jury. See Cases and Authorities under Points (3) and (5). (5) The court erred in giving defendant's Instruction 10 which is as follows: "If the jury believe and find from the evidence that at the time the insured committed suicide, he appreciated the moral consequences of his act but was indifferent thereto, then the Court instructs you that the insured was not insane and your verdict must be in favor of the defendant." (a) Instruction 10 erroneously assumed that the insured committed suicide. (b) Instruction 10 erroneously told the jury the sole test of whether the insured was insane at the time was if he appreciated the moral consequences of his act or was indifferent thereto. (c) Instruction 10 directed a verdict for defendant and erroneously excluded the question of accidental death from the consideration of the jury. Lampert v. Assurance Corp., 272 Mo. 19; Henson v. Kansas City, 210 S.W. 13; Hunt v. St. Louis, 211 S.W. 673; Mahaney v. K.C., C., C. & St. J., 46 S.W. (2d) 817; Willi v. United Rys. Co. of St. Louis, 224 S.W. 86; See Authorities under Point (3). (6) The court erred in giving defendant's Instruction 14 and in said instruction directing the jury that plaintiff could not recover if they found the insured committed suicide unless the jury further found that the insured was insane to the extent that he was unable to appreciate the moral consequences of his act. Rodgers v. Travelers Ins. Co., 311 Mo. 249, 278 S.W. 368. (7) The court erred in giving defendant's Instruction 7, as follows: "The Court instructs the jury that sane men sometimes commit suicide and you cannot find the insured was insane merely because he shot himself." This instruction singled out and commented on a fact outside of the record and gave undue prominence to this one fact and was therefore erroneous. C.I.T. Corporation v. Hume, 48 S.W. (2d) 154; Lithegner v. St. Louis, 125 S.W. (2d) 925; Simpson v. Burnett, 252 S.W. 949. (8) The court erred in giving defendant's instructions 8, 9, 10 and 14 and in said instructions telling the jury six different times that if the insured understood the moral consequences of his act he was not insane; and the court erred in giving defendant's instructions 5, 8, 9 and 11 telling the jury four different times that the burden of proof was on plaintiff; and the court further erred in giving defendant's instructions 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 14 and submitting to the jury six different times the issue of insanity. Fantroy v. Schirmer, 296 S.W. 235; Reeves v. Lutz, 191 Mo. App. 550; Sidway v. Livestock Co., 163 Mo. 342, 63 S.W. 705; Johnson v. Springfield Traction Co., 176 Mo. App. 174, 161 S.W. 1193. (9) The court erred in sustaining each of the peremptory challenges on voir dire of defendant and excusing more than seventeen jurors because said jurors stated that they believed or thought a man who committed suicide was insane, although these same jurors all stated that they would follow the law and the evidence regardless of their belief. McComas v. Covenant Mut. Life Ins. Co., 56 Mo. 573; State v. Herring & Baldwin, 268 Mo. 514; State v. Hicks, 3 S.W. (2d) 230; State v. Davis, 7 S.W. (2d) 264.

Beach, Gordon & Beach and Jones, Hocker, Gladney & Grand for respondent.

(1) The beneficiary in an action on an accident policy has the burden of proving an accidental death, and suicide is not an affirmative defense in such an action. Griffith v. Continental Cas. Co., 290 Mo. 455, 253 S.W. 1043; Landau v. Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co., 305 Mo. 542, 267 S.W. 370; Brunswick v. Standard Accident Ins. Co., 278 Mo. 165, 213 S.W. 45; Laessig v. Travelers Protective Assn., 169 Mo. 280, 69 S.W. 469; Lamport v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 199 S.W. 1020; New York Life Ins. Co. v. Gamer, 303 U.S. 161, 82 L. Ed. 480. (2) A presumption that insured's death was accidental only arises from an unexplained violent death. Sellars v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 149 S.W. (2d) 40; Berne v. Prudential Ins. Co., 235 Mo. App. 178, 129 S.W. (2d) 92; Mayhew v. Travelers Protective Assn. of Am., 52 S.W. (2d) 29; Burge v. Wabash Railroad Co., 244 Mo. 76, 148 S.W. 925; Laessig v. Travelers Protective Assn., 169 Mo. 272; Brunswick v. Standard Accident Ins. Co., 278 Mo. 154, 213 S.W. 45; New York Life Ins. Co. v. Gamer, 303 U.S. 161, 82 L. Ed. 480; Warren v. Pilot Life Ins. Co., 9 S.E. (2d) 479; Occidental Life Ins. Co. v. United States Bank, 53 Pac. (2d) 1180; Scales v. Prudential Ins. Co., 109 Fed. (2d) 119; Whigham v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 22 Atl. (2d) 704. (3) Suicide was established as a matter of law. Richey v. Woodmen of the World, 163 Mo. App. 235; State ex rel. Bowdon v. Allen, 327 Mo. 260, 85 S.W. (2d) 63; Kornfeld v. Supreme Lodge, 72 Mo. App. 604; McMillan v. General American Life Ins. Co., 9 S.E. (2d) 562; Watkins v. Prudential Ins. Co., 315 Pa. 497, 173 Atl. 644; Krasse v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 111 N.J.L. 474, 168 Atl. 634; Von Crome v. Travelers Ins. Co., 11 Fed. (2d) 350; Frankel v. New York Life Ins. Co., 51 Fed. (2d) 933; Mitchell v. New England Mut. Life Ins. Co., 123 Fed. (2d) 246; Lambert v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 17 S.E. (2d) 628; De Weese v. Sovereign Camp W.O.W., 204 Pac. 523. (4) The burden of proof has not been sustained where the inference of suicidal death is as reasonable as the inference of accidental death. Draper v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 156 S.W. (2d) 626; Wells v. Berberich's Delivery Co., 134 S.W. (2d) 130; Landau v. Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co., 305 Mo. 542, 267 S.W. 370; Tillotson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 304 Mo. 487, 263 S.W. 819; Svenson v. Mutual Life Ins. Co., 87 Fed. (2d) 441; Watkins v. Prudential Ins. Co., 315 Pa. 497, 173 Atl. 644. (5) The provision of the policy that it does not insure against an insane suicide is valid because the Missouri Suicide Statute (Sec. 5851, R.S. Mo. 1939). which invalidates this provision of the policy, is itself invalid and in contravention of Section 28 of Article IV of the Missouri Constitution of 1875, which provides that "no bill ... shall contain more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title." This statute was enacted in 1879 as a part of an act entitled "An Act to revise and amend the insurance laws of the State of Missouri." The Legislature, in the enactment of that statute, did not comply with Section 28, Article IV, of the Missouri Constitution of 1875 because the title to the act of which that statute was a part did not state, specify or indicate that it was proposed or intended in said act to legislate with respect to the defense of suicide in actions on policies of insurance on life to be thereafter issued in Missouri, or that the common-law right of an accident insurer to contract against liability for death as the result of an insane suicide was to be changed, modified and abrogated, and, moreover, said statute could not, under this constitutional mandate, be validly or constitutionally enacted as new and additional legislation in an act or bill, the title to which only...

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37 practice notes
  • Billis v. State, Nos. 88-311
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 5, 1990
    ...are given a title reference, but prosecutorial veto remains untitled. Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co. of America, 350 Mo. 666, 168 S.W.2d 82, 93 (1942) recognized that the title "must be a fair index of the matters in the bill" when it The purpose of the constitutional provision, supra......
  • Ward v. Penn Mut. Life Ins. Co., No. 8000
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 20, 1961
    ...as is our duty, viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff [Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co., 350 Mo. 666, 678, 168 S.W.2d 82, 88] and accorded Page 422 to her the benefit of all inferences fairly deducible from the evidence [Landau v. Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co., supra......
  • Willis v. Willis, No. 7332
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • December 28, 1954
    ...until it takes flight and vanishes in the light of contrary evidence [Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co. of America, 350 Mo. 666, 168 S.W.2d 82, 90(13); State ex rel. United Mut. Ins. Ass'n v. Shain, 349 Mo. 460, 162 S.W.2d 255, 263(11)], and that the burden or proving insanity is upon th......
  • State v. Day-Brite Lighting, DAY-BRITE
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 11, 1951
    ...of harmony with them'. Graves v. Purcell, 337 Mo. 574, 85 S.W.2d 543, 548. See also Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co., 350 Mo. 666, 168 S.W.2d 82, Section 11785, by its terms, makes it a crime for an employer to deny its employees Page 895 the privilege of absenting themselves from their......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Billis v. State, Nos. 88-311
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 5, 1990
    ...are given a title reference, but prosecutorial veto remains untitled. Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co. of America, 350 Mo. 666, 168 S.W.2d 82, 93 (1942) recognized that the title "must be a fair index of the matters in the bill" when it The purpose of the constitutional provision, supra......
  • Ward v. Penn Mut. Life Ins. Co., No. 8000
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 20, 1961
    ...as is our duty, viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff [Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co., 350 Mo. 666, 678, 168 S.W.2d 82, 88] and accorded Page 422 to her the benefit of all inferences fairly deducible from the evidence [Landau v. Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co., supra......
  • Willis v. Willis, No. 7332
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • December 28, 1954
    ...until it takes flight and vanishes in the light of contrary evidence [Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co. of America, 350 Mo. 666, 168 S.W.2d 82, 90(13); State ex rel. United Mut. Ins. Ass'n v. Shain, 349 Mo. 460, 162 S.W.2d 255, 263(11)], and that the burden or proving insanity is upon th......
  • State v. Day-Brite Lighting, DAY-BRITE
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 11, 1951
    ...of harmony with them'. Graves v. Purcell, 337 Mo. 574, 85 S.W.2d 543, 548. See also Edwards v. Business Men's Assur. Co., 350 Mo. 666, 168 S.W.2d 82, Section 11785, by its terms, makes it a crime for an employer to deny its employees Page 895 the privilege of absenting themselves from their......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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