Home Benefit Ass v. Sargent

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLATCHFORD
Citation35 L.Ed. 1160,12 S.Ct. 332,142 U.S. 691
Decision Date26 January 1892
PartiesHOME BENEFIT ASS'N v. SARGENT

142 U.S. 691
12 S.Ct. 332
35 L.Ed. 1160
HOME BENEFIT ASS'N
v.
SARGENT.
January 26, 1892.

A. G. Fox and Francis Lawton, for plaintiff in error.

Miron Winslow, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice BLATCHFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

This is an action at law, brought in the circuit court of the United States for the southern district of New York by Hen-

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rietta P. Sargent, a citizen of Massachusetts, against the Home Benefit Association, a life insurance association incorporated by the state of New York, to recover the sum of $5,000, with interest from March 15, 1887, upon a policy of life insurance issued by the defendant September 5, 1885, on the life of Edward F. Hall, Jr., for the benefit of the plaintiff, who was his sister.

Hall was made by the policy an accepted member of the life department of the defendant. By one of the conditions in the policy it was provided that 'death of the member by his own hand or act, whether voluntary or involuntary, sane or insane at the time.' was a risk not assumed by the defendant under the policy.

The complaint alleged that the policy was in force on the 19th of October, 1886, when Hall died at the city of New York, and that his death was not caused by any of the causes excepted from the operation of the policy. It was set up in the answer as a defense that the death of Hall was brought about by his own hand and act, in that he died from the immediate effect of a shot from a pistol fired by his own hand, such shot having been fired by him with the intention of taking his own life.

The case was tried before Judge COXE and a jury, which rendered a verdict for the plaintiff for $5,350. A motion for a new trial was made before Judge COXE, and was denied,—the opinion of the court thereon being reported in 35 Fed. Rep. 711,—and a judgment was thereafter rendered in favor of the plaintiff for $5,350, with interest and costs; the whole amounting to $5,517.99. To review that judgment the defendant has brought a writ of error.

By the bill of exceptions it appears that, after the plaintiff rested her case, the defendant moved the court to direct a verdict for it, on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to show that she ever had presented to it, in accordance with the provisions of the policy, satisfactory evidence of Hall's death; but the court denied the motion. The defendant excepted, and then proceeded to put in evidence on its part. After it had rested, the plaintiff put in rebutting evidence on her part, and

Page 693

then the defendant put in further evidence. It is not stated in the bill of exceptions that it contains all the evidence; but it is set forth at the close of what does appear that the defendant moved the court to direct a verdict for the defendant, on the ground that the evidence showed that Hall died by his own hand. The court refused to do so, and the defendant excepted.

Parts of the charge of the court to the jury are set forth, and it is stated that the court charged the jury as to all other features of the case fully and in such manner that no exception was taken thereto, and that the portions of the court's charge to the jury which are not set forth did not in any wise bear on or relate to any matters contained in the defendant's requests to charge, hereinafter referred to.

Among the instructions of the court to the jury were the following: 'The only question upon this proof is, did Edward F. Hall commit suicide? If he did, the policy is void. It he died in some other way—by accident or assassination—it would be otherwise. Upon that issue, the burden is upon the defendant to satisfy you by a fair preponderance or proof of the truth of this defense. * * * When the policy of insurance was introduced with evidence or admissions that the premiums had been paid, and proof was given of the death of the assured, the plaintiff, if no further evidence had been produced, would have been entitled to a verdict; but the defendant comes into court, and asserts that the contract under which the action is brought has not been fulfilled, but has been violated by the assured. Being an affirmative defense, the onus is upon the defendant to satisly you by evidence which, in your judgment, outweighs the evidence of the plaintiff, that that defense has been established.'

The court, after stating that the defendant had introduced in evidence proofs of death furnished to it by the plaintiff; that the defendant insisted that the plaintiff, having produced those proofs, was estopped from saying that the cause of death there assigned was not truly assigned; and that such proofs asserted generally that Hall met his death by suicide, while laboring under temporary aberration of mind,—also instructed

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the jury that such proofs were properevidence for them to consider, but were by no means conclusive evidence, and were to be taken by them in connection with the other testimony in the case, and given such weight in determining the main question as the jury might see fit to give them.

The court further instructed the jury, that the plaintiff's position was First, that, the burden being upon the defendant to satisfy them that Hall met death by his own hand, intending to kill himself, the plaintiff had a right to rely upon the alleged failure of the defendant to prove that fact; second, that it was asserted by the plaintiff that Hall's death might have been occasioned simply and solely by accident; and, third, that it might have been the result of assassination; and that, if the jury found that there was a failure on the part of the defendant to prove that Hall committed suicide, (whether he was in his right mind or laboring under temporary insanity being wholly immaterial,) or if they found upon the proofs that his death was caused by accident and nothing else, there must be a verdict for the plaintiff.

The defendant excepted (1) to the instruction that, on the question whether Hall committed suicide or not, the burden of proof was on the defendant to satisfy the jury by evidence which in their judgment out weighed that of the plaintiff that his death was by suicide; (2) to the charge that the proofs of death were proper evidence in the case, but by no means conclusive; (3) to the submission to the jury of the question whether Hall died as the result of assassination, and to the charge that the evidence must be such as satisfied the jury of the truth of the fact in dispute.

Before the case was summed up to the jury by counsel—which was done before the giving of the charge—the defendant presented to the court 15 several written requests to charge the jury. These requests are inserted in the bill of exceptions after the statement of the charge and the exceptions thereto, and it is stated in regard to each of the requests that the court refused so to charge 'except as already...

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93 practice notes
  • Cramer v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co. of Boston
    • United States
    • New Jersey Circuit Court
    • May 17, 1940
    ...plaintiff was not estopped from proving, if able, that the death was, in fact, caused by accidental means. Home Benefit Ass'n v. Sargent, 142 U.S. 691, 12 S.Ct. 332, 35 L.Ed. 1160; Supreme Lodge Pythias' Knights v. Beck, 181 U.S. 49, 21 S.Ct. 532, 45 L.Ed. 741; Jensen v. Continental Life In......
  • Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Prieto
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • April 6, 1935
    ...was settled definitely so far as the federal courts are concerned by the decision in the McConkey Case. Home Ben. Ass'n v. Sargent, 142 U. S. 691, 12 S. Ct. 332, 35 L. Ed. 1160; Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Akens, 150 U. S. 468, 14 S. Ct. 155, 37 L. Ed. 1148; Supreme Lodge, Knig......
  • Thornell v. Missouri State Life Ins. Co., (No. 384-3652.)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • March 14, 1923
    ...(22 Wall.) 32, 22 L. Ed. 793; Mutual Benefit Life Ins. Co. v. Higginbotham, 95 U. S. 380, 24 L. Ed. 499; Home Benefit Ass'n v. Sargent, 142 U. S. 691, 12 Sup. Ct. 332, 35 L. Ed. 1160; Crotty v. Union Mutual Life Ins. Co., 144 U. S. 621, 12 Sup. Ct. 749, 36 L. Ed. 566; Pythias Knights' Supre......
  • Texas Co. v. Central Fuel Oil Co., 3,652.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • February 13, 1912
    ...and therefore will be disregarded. Crawford v. Heysinger, 123 U.S. 589, 8 Sup.Ct. 399, 31 L.Ed. 269; Home Benefit Association v. Sargent, 142 U.S. 691, 12 Sup.Ct. 332, 35 L.Ed. 1160; Repauno Chemical Company v. Victor Hardware Co., 101 F. 948, 42 C.C.A. 106. Is appellant's position so uncon......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
93 cases
  • Cramer v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co. of Boston
    • United States
    • New Jersey Circuit Court
    • May 17, 1940
    ...plaintiff was not estopped from proving, if able, that the death was, in fact, caused by accidental means. Home Benefit Ass'n v. Sargent, 142 U.S. 691, 12 S.Ct. 332, 35 L.Ed. 1160; Supreme Lodge Pythias' Knights v. Beck, 181 U.S. 49, 21 S.Ct. 532, 45 L.Ed. 741; Jensen v. Continental Life In......
  • Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Prieto
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • April 6, 1935
    ...was settled definitely so far as the federal courts are concerned by the decision in the McConkey Case. Home Ben. Ass'n v. Sargent, 142 U. S. 691, 12 S. Ct. 332, 35 L. Ed. 1160; Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Akens, 150 U. S. 468, 14 S. Ct. 155, 37 L. Ed. 1148; Supreme Lodge, Knig......
  • Thornell v. Missouri State Life Ins. Co., (No. 384-3652.)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • March 14, 1923
    ...(22 Wall.) 32, 22 L. Ed. 793; Mutual Benefit Life Ins. Co. v. Higginbotham, 95 U. S. 380, 24 L. Ed. 499; Home Benefit Ass'n v. Sargent, 142 U. S. 691, 12 Sup. Ct. 332, 35 L. Ed. 1160; Crotty v. Union Mutual Life Ins. Co., 144 U. S. 621, 12 Sup. Ct. 749, 36 L. Ed. 566; Pythias Knights' Supre......
  • Texas Co. v. Central Fuel Oil Co., 3,652.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • February 13, 1912
    ...and therefore will be disregarded. Crawford v. Heysinger, 123 U.S. 589, 8 Sup.Ct. 399, 31 L.Ed. 269; Home Benefit Association v. Sargent, 142 U.S. 691, 12 Sup.Ct. 332, 35 L.Ed. 1160; Repauno Chemical Company v. Victor Hardware Co., 101 F. 948, 42 C.C.A. 106. Is appellant's position so uncon......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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