Sanders v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co

Citation104 Utah 75,138 P.2d 239
Decision Date01 June 1943
Docket Number6459
CourtSupreme Court of Utah
PartiesSANDERS v. METROPOLITAN LIFE INS. CO

Appeal from District Court, Third District, Salt Lake County; Albert H. Ellett, Judge.

Action by Signa Sanders against Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for double indemnity benefits under accident policy. From a judgment for plaintiff for $ 224 and interest, the defendant appeals.

Judgment affirmed.

Van Cott, Riter & Farnsworth, of Salt Lake City, (Harry Cole Bates, of New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

Moyle &amp Moyle, of Salt Lake City, for respondent.

MOFFAT Justice. WOLFE, C. J., and McDONOUGH and WADE, JJ., LARSON Justice, concurring.

OPINION

MOFFAT, Justice.

Defendant Insurance Company appeals from a judgment rendered against it for $ 224 and interest under the accidental death benefit provision of a life insurance policy issued to plaintiff on the life of her son, Gordon Sanders, aged seven at the time the policy was taken out, and just over age fifteen at the time of his death on August 4, 1938. The Insurance Company paid the sum of $ 224 to plaintiff after receipt of proof of the death of her son, as the amount due under the policy schedules for his death, but refused to pay the double indemnity for the death alleged by plaintiff to have been caused, directly and independently of all other causes, solely through external, violent and accidental means.

Plaintiff commenced this action in the City Court of Salt Lake City, recovering judgment therein for the amount claimed. Defendant appealed and the case was tried de novo to a jury in the District Court of Salt Lake County, resulting in a verdict and judgment in favor of plaintiff for the amount of the accidental death benefit above stated, from which the appeal to this court is taken.

The pertinent clause of the insurance policy, together with the stated exceptions, is here quoted at length:

"Accidental Death Benefit. Upon receipt of due proof that the Insured, after attaining age 15 and prior to attaining age 70, has sustained, after the date of this Policy, bodily injuries, solely through external, violent and accidental means, resulting, directly and independently of all other causes, in the death of the Insured within ninety days from the date of such bodily injuries while this Policy is in force, and while premiums are not in default beyond the grace period specified in this Policy, the Company will pay in addition to any other sums due under this Policy and subject to the provisions of this Policy an Accidental Death Benefit equal to the face amount of insurance then payable at death, except that if such bodily injuries are sustained by the Insured while employed in or on the premises of any open pit or underground mine, or are sustained by the Insured while on or about the premises or right of way of any railroad company while the Insured is following the occupation of gang, track, or roadway laborer, track walker, yard, train or mixed train brakeman or flagman, then the Accidental Death Benefit shall be only one-half of the face amount of insurance then payable at death. In any case, the amount of the Accidental Death Benefit shall be reduced by the amount of any Disability Benefit which has become payable under this Policy on account of the same injuries as resulted in death.

"No Accidental Death Benefit will be paid if the death of the Insured is the result of self-destruction, whether sane or insane, nor if death is caused or contributed to, directly or indirectly, or wholly or partially, by disease, or by bodily or mental infirmity, nor if death results from bodily injuries sustained while participating in aviation or aeronautics, or while the Insured is in military or naval service in time of war."

At the opening of the trial, the following facts were stated to the court and jury as having been stipulated and agreed to between the parties: (1) The incorporation under the laws of New York of defendant and its qualification to do life insurance business in the State of Utah; (2) that plaintiff is a resident of Salt Lake County, State of Utah; (3) that under date of September 29, 1930, the plaintiff applied for and secured from the defendant a life insurance policy upon the life of her minor son Gordon Sanders, then seven years of age. Said policy of insurance is referred to and incorporated in the stipulation and shall be considered by the court and jury with the same force and effect as though introduced and received in evidence without objection by either of the parties hereto. (4) That as provided in said policy the Plaintiff paid insurance premiums of ten cents per week for each and every week after the said 29th day of September, 1930, up until the time of the death of the insured as hereinafter set forth. (5) That on the third day of August, 1938, near Salina, Utah, an automobile in which said Gordon Sanders was riding overturned and the same Gordon Sanders received bodily injuries therefrom which resulted in his death upon the fourth day of August, 1938. (6) That at the time of the death of the said Gordon Sanders said above-mentioned policy of insurance was in full force and effect. Said Gordon Sanders was born on the 11th day of July, 1923, and at the time of his death was fifteen years of age. (7) That under date of August 8, 1938, the plaintiff furnished to defendant due proof of the death of said Gordon Sanders and made demand upon the defendant company for the payment of the amount stipulated in the schedule of said policy, together with the accidental death benefit agreed to be paid by the defendant. That the defendant paid the face amount of said policy, to wit, the sum of $ 224; but wholly refused to pay the double indemnity or accidental death benefit provided in said policy. (8) Said insured, Gordon Sanders, was lawfully adjudged a delinquent child by a court of competent jurisdiction and was by said court sentenced to confinement in the Utah State Industrial School, an institution maintained by the State of Utah for the confinement of delinquent minors. That on the second day of August, 1938, and before the expiration of his sentence aforesaid the insured, without committing force or violence, escaped from said institution and immediately following such escape he, with a companion named Raymond Burnett, age 14, took an automobile belonging to a Mrs. Bell of Ogden, without her knowledge or consent. That said insured and his said companion then drove said automobile to the town of Spring City in Sanpete County, Utah. At that place they broke the show window on the front of the store building of the Osborne Mercantile Company at Spring City and reached in and took two pairs of white shoes. That they then drove away from Spring City toward Manti, with the Burnett boy driving the car; that the two pairs of white shoes were in the same automobile when it was searched by the sheriff of Sanpete County after the accident. (It was further stipulated that any objection that might be raised to plaintiff not being the proper party to whom payment should be made under the policy was waived by defendant.)

Plaintiff was then called and testified that she is the mother of Gordon Sanders, deceased, the insured named in the policy; she identified her signature on the application for the insurance, dated September 19, 1930; and testified that she personally paid the premiums required under the policy from the time of its issue to the date of her son's death, (August 4, 1938). The application was then offered and received in evidence without objection to show that the insurance was applied for by plaintiff in her name and the insured had nothing to do with its acquisition. Plaintiff testified further that insured was born July 11, 1923, and that he had arrived at age fifteen on July 11, 1938, prior to the accident resulting in his death; and that to her knowledge her son had never driven an automobile.

The Sheriff of Sanpete County was then called by defendant and testified that in the early morning of August 3, 1938, he received a report of burglary from the City Marshal of Ephraim (six miles north of Manti) describing the automobile which left the scene of the offense; that he proceeded north in Manti in his car and met the car described by the marshal, a yellow coupe, coming south; that he turned around and pursued the car; could not see who was in it; followed the car about five miles south of Manti, and, although driving at eighty miles an hour, could not overtake the car; that at a fill, the pursued car left the main highway on a graded road to the east, drove through a wire fence and a deep ditch and turned over several times. That at about the time he reached this fill, he missed the boys; that he drove on quite a distance, passed two other cars carrying fishermen and then turned around and went back where he found the boys lying in an alfalfa field; both legs of the Burnett boy were fractured and young Sanders' back was broken and he never did regain consciousness; that he administered first aid and took them to the Salina hospital where both boys died the following day; that the car was demolished, and that there were two pairs of white canvas shoes in the car when it was searched.

The following offer of proof was made, out of the presence of the jury, objection to the introduction of which was sustained:

"Mr Bagley: The defendant offers to prove by the witness now on the stand [the Sheriff] that while he was taking the two boys to the hospital from the scene of the accident that the Burnett boy, Raymond Burnett, the companion of the insured, stated that he was driving the car at the time it overturned and that when they reached Manti and saw the automobile of the sheriff that they knew that it was an...

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    ...P.2d 949 (1949); Handley v. Mutual Life Insurance Co., 106 Utah 184, 192, 147 P.2d 319, 322 (1944); Sanders v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 104 Utah 75, 83, 138 P.2d 239, 242-43 (1943); Whatcott v. Continental Casualty Co., 85 Utah 406, 39 P.2d 733 (1935); Billings v. Continental Life I......
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