Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Shields

Decision Date17 April 1913
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Appeal from City Court of Birmingham; C.C. Nesmith, Judge.

Action by Savannah Shields against the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company. From a judgment for plaintiff, defendant appeals. Affirmed.

Joel F Webb, of Birmingham, for appellant.

Black &amp Davis, of Birmingham, and Riddle, Ellis, Riddle & Pruett, of Goodwater, for appellee.


The action is by the beneficiary, upon an insurance policy on the life of one William E. Howard. The complaint is in code form. The beneficiary named in the policy is stated to be the sister of the insured. The policy is not a regular life insurance policy, but is one known as "industrial health and accident policy." It, however, contains provisions for the payment of an amount named in the policy, in case of the death of the insured, upon certain specified conditions. One of these conditions is that the death of the insured must have been caused solely by "external, violent and accidental means."

While the complaint does not, in its allegations, follow the terms of the policy ipsissimis verbis, it does aver that the death of the insured was the result of an "accidental injury independent of all other causes." This we think was sufficient. It was unnecessary to aver the exact language of the policy.

The real question in dispute was whether the evidence showed or tended to show that the insured came to his death by the means, or in the manner, specified in the terms of the policy, or whether his death was from natural causes not within the terms of the accident policy. The evidence upon this question was not without dispute. While we might say, if allowed so to do, that the weight of the evidence showed that his death was the result of heart disease, or of natural causes, and not of accidental ones within the conditions of the policy, yet there was evidence from which the jury might believe and find that his death was not from this, or any other natural cause, but solely from external violent, and accidental means, and within the conditions of the policy.

There was evidence tending to show that the insured was a strong and healthy man prior to and up to the time of his death, and that his death resulted from his falling from his doorsteps; his head striking a brick. If this were true, the death was within the protection of the policy, and the insurance company was liable as found by the jury. There was, however, evidence tending to show that the deceased suffered, and had suffered for some time previous to his death, and to the execution of the policy, from heart trouble, and that his death was the result of this trouble, and not of the fall from the doorsteps; and therefore that it was not within the protection of the policy. The question, however, was made a disputed one, by the issues raised by the pleadings; and under the evidence it was plainly one for the jury. And the trial court, after having heard all the evidence on this question, and having seen some of the witnesses and observed their manner and demeanor (which we cannot do), refused to affirmatively instruct the jury on the question, or to set aside the verdict found by the jury. While we have some doubt as to the correctness of the finding, we do not feel that we should reverse the trial court for failing to instruct the jury to find for the defendant, as requested in writing, or for failure to set aside the verdict.

The record proper in this case is apparently defective in that it shows amendment of certain pleadings, but fails to show what these amendments were, or the extent to which the original pleadings were amended, or the legal effect of such amendments. This defect of the record prevents us from reviewing some of the rulings assigned as error as to the pleadings. So far as we can know, the amendments not shown may have cured the defects in the original pleadings.

In this state of the record we must indulge all presumptions in favor of the rulings of the trial court. Prattville Cotton Mills v. McKinney, 59 So. 498; B.R.L. & P. Co. v. Fox, 56 So. 1013; Savannah Railroad Co., v. Buford, 106 Ala. 309, 17 So. 395.

The minute entry in this case bears two dates, the 16th day of ...

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