Iannarelli v. Kan. City Life Ins. Co

Decision Date26 September 1933
Docket NumberNo. 7549.,7549.
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court

171 S.E. 748


No. 7549.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Sept. 26, 1933.

[171 S.E. 748]

Rehearing Denied Dec. 11, 1933.

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Contracts of life insurance, as other contracts, will be construed according to the plain meaning of the terms employed by the parties.

2. Under the provisions of a life insurance policy waiving payment of premiums during total disability of insured upon receipt by the insurer of proof of the disability, the receipt of such proof before the policy lapses is a condition precedent to a waiver of premiums, and insanity of the insured at the time of such lapse will not excuse failure to. furnish such proof.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Kanawha County..

Suit by Enrico Iannarelli, committee, and others, against the Kansas City Life Insurance Company. From an adverse decree, the defendant appeals.

Decree reversed, and bill dismissed.

Price, Smith & Spilman and A. B. Hodges, all of Charleston, for appellant.

M. H. Bowyer and E. B. Dyer, both of Charleston, for appellees.

MAXWELL, President.

Plaintiff, as committee, prevailed in the trial court in seeking to have a life insurance policy declared to be in full force and effect, the insured restored to all rights and benefits thereunder, and to require the defendant to keep the policy in force without further payment of premiums during insured's disability. An appeal was awarded the defendant.

The defendant cancelled the policy because the second annual premium had not been paid within the period of grace provided for in the policy. Insured was adjudged insane before the second annual premium became due and payable and while so incapacitated the period of grace expired.

The policy was dated July 11, 1927, the premium for one year being paid in advance. October 19, 1927, the insured was adjudged insane and the Beckley National Bank appointed as committee for him. He was admitted to a hospital for the insane October 26th following. He was discharged five days later, as "improved." February 16, 1928, he was re-committed to the hospital and remained there until September 3, 1928, when he was sent to his home in Italy, unimproved. The bank resigned as committee in July, 1928, and plaintiff, Italian consul, was appointed and qualified as his committee.

Plaintiff testified that he did not learn of the existence of the policy of insurance until August 15, 1928, four days after the period of grace had expired. This information was contained in a letter from defendant to the insured, dated August 8, 1928, addressed to him at Beelick Knob, his home, which would have advised him that the period of grace was about to expire; and was forwarded to the Beckley National Bank and by it to the plaintiff. August 17th, plaintiff wrote to defendant stating that insured had been adjudged insane, asking for a photostatic copy of the policy of insurance and requesting blanks on which to make application for reinstatement of the policy. Defendant had received no information of insured's disability prior to this time.

The policy contained this provision, known as a "total disability" clause:

"Upon receipt, at the Home Office of the Company, of due proof, upon blanks furnished by the Company for that purpose, that, after the payment of the first annual premium upon this policy, and before default in the payment of any subsequent premium, and while this policy is in force, and before the insured has attained the age of sixty-five years, the insured has become and is totally and permanently disabled by bodily injury or disease, except as hereinafter provided, and will be continuously and wholly prevented thereby for life from engaging in any occupation, employment or work for wages, gain or profit, and that such permanent and total disability has existed during the preceding period of thirty days, the Company will waive the payment of any subsequent premiums on this policy which fall due during the continuance of such total and permanent disability."

It is the contention of the plaintiff, inasmuch as insured could not furnish the...

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