Prudential Ins. Co. of America v. Cannon

Decision Date04 September 1947
Docket Number15987.
Citation44 S.E.2d 25,211 S.C. 134
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Clarke W. McCants, of Columbia, for appellant.

Clint T. Graydon and John Grimball, both of Columbia, for respondent.

BAKER Chief Justice.

This is a declaratory judgment action instituted in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County by the appellant, The Prudential Insurance Company of America, against the respondent, Roy R. Cannon, having for its purpose the determination by that Court of the appellant's further liability under the terms of its insurance policy for additional disability payments claimed to be due the respondent, under an insurance policy issued to him by the appellant on March 22, 1919. We do not find that the precise dominant issue here involved has heretofore been passed upon by this Court.

The policy or contract of insurance being of the 'twenty-year-pay type' matured on March 22, 1939, and by its provisions, in case of the death of the respondent the appellant agreed to pay to the designated beneficiary therein the sum of One Thousand ($1000) Dollars; and further to pay to the respondent Ten ($10) Dollars a month in the event he should become totally and permanently disabled to such an extent that he, by reason of such disability or incapacity, is rendered wholly and permanently unable to engage in any occupation or perform any work for any kind of compensation of financial value. It is further provided therein:

'Recovery from Disability.--The Insured, upon demand by the Company at any time during such disability and before the Company's liability hereunder has ceased, shall furnish proof that he actually continues in a state of disability, as defined above, and in case of his failure so to do the Insured shall be deemed to have recovered from such state of disability.

'In the event that the Insured recovers from such state of disability * * *no further monthly payments shall be made * * *.'

In April, 1939, the respondent became ill from a bone infection of the knee joint (osteomyelitis), and was confined to bed for ten months. The appellant paid the respondent disability payments only after suit was instituted. In July, 1940, the appellant again denied liability under its policy which it had issued to the respondent, and he brought suit for the disability payments provided for therein in the Richland County Court, resulting in a holding by said Court that the respondent was permanently disabled and directing the appellant to make the disability payments. From such judgment there was no appeal, and the appellant paid in accord therewith until January, 1944, when it ceased making the monthly disability payments. In May, 1944, the appellant instituted this action in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County seeking a declaration of the rights of the parties herein.

The appellant's complaint sets out the pertinent provisions of its contract with the respondent, the payment of disability benefits to him under the judgment of the Richland County Court, up to January 21, 1944, and the cessation of payments, alleging that the respondent had recovered from his disability to such an extent that the appellant was no longer liable to him under the contract or policy for such monthly disability payments; and that the respondent contemplated an action against the appellant, having for its purpose the enforcement of his alleged claim for disability payments, which claim was denied by the appellant.

The respondent's answer alleges that the Richland County Court had adjudicated the matter of his disability and had found that he was totally and permanently disabled, and that no appeal had been taken from that order and judgment which was still binding on the appellant. The respondent further alleged that there had been no improvement in his physical condition whatsoever and therefore the decision of the Richland County Court is still controlling as to his disability, and binding on the appellant in this action.

At the conclusion of the taking of testimony, the appellant and the respondent, respectively, moved for a direction of verdict in their behalf.

The respondent's motion for a direction of verdict in his behalf was made on the ground that there had been no showing by the appellant that there had been any material change in his (physical) condition since the judgment in his favor was rendered in the Richland County Court. In passing on the motions of the appellant and the respondent, the trial judge stated in part as his reason for granting the motion of the respondent:

'Both of you have made motions for a directed verdict, and while I think it is my duty, if there is any dispute as to the facts to let it go to the jury, I cannot see any dispute in the facts in this case, and I am going to direct a verdict for the defendant. So that the record might show my reasons for doing it, the defendant in this...

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