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Hurni Packing Co. 263 U. S. 167, 68 fully protected in all the defenses L. ed., Adv. Ops. p. 45, post, 102, available at the time of the death of 44 Sup. Ct. Rep. 90 (filed November the assured. A majority of the 12, 1923). Of course, such holdings court adhere to the rule of the Stevwould lead to the conclusion that the ens Case. The demurrer should remedy at law was not adequate, be- have been sustained, with leave to cause the time limit might expire be- answer. fore the beneficiaries saw fit to com- Order reversed. mence an action to recover on the policy. Although it is desirable to
NOTE. be in the line with the great weight of authority, the rule adopted in The effect of death of insured beMutual L. Ins. Co. v. Stevens, supra, fore the end of the contestable period commends itself as just and work- is treated in subd. II. of the annotaable. Under it the beneficiary in a tion following MUTUAL L. INS. Co. v. policy retains the right to have a HURNI PACKING Co. post, 108, on the jury determine whether or not he general subject of the time when the procured insurance by fraud or mis- incontestable clause in a life insurrepresentation, and the insurer is ance policy becomes effective.
MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY of New York, Plff. in
United States Supreme Court - - November 12, 1923.
(263 U. S. 167, 68 L. ed. , 44 Sup. Ct. Rep. 90.) Insurance effect of death of insured time for contest.
1. A provision in an insurance policy making it incontestable after the lapse of a specified time does not cease to operate when the insured dies within the time specified, but continues thereafter for the benefit of the beneficiary; and therefore, if contest is not instituted within the time specified, it is too late.
[See note on this question beginning on page 108.] - construction of policy — method. word "date" is the time specified
2. In case of ambiguity, that con- therein. struction of an insurance policy will Insurance incontestability date be adopted which is most favorable of issue. to the insured.
4. Where an insurance policy is [See 14 R. C. L. 926; 3 R. C. L. Supp. antedated, and provides that it shall 316; 4 R. C. L. Supp. 931.]
be incontestable a specified time from Words and phrases — "date."
its date of issue, the word "date" re3. As applied to written instru- fers to the one specified in the policy ments, the primary significance of the -not the true date of issuance.
CERTIORARI to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, to review a judgment affirming a judgment of the District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in favor of plaintiff in an action brought to recover the amount alleged to be due on a life insurance policy. Affirmed.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.
(263 U, S. 167, 68 L. ed. —, 44 Sup. Ct. Rep. 90.) Messrs. James M. Beck, Frederick L. 398; Arnold v. Equitable Life Assur. Allen, Ralph L. Read, and Guy T. Soc. 228 Fed. 157; Great Western L. Struble, for plaintiff in certiorari: Ins. Co. v. Snavely, 46 L.R.A.(N.S.)
The two-year contestable period 1056, 124 C. C. A. 154, 206 Fed. 20; commenced to run either on September Wright v. Mutual Ben. L. Ins. Co. 118 7, 1915, when the policy was actually N. Y. 237, 6 L.R.A. 731, 16 Am. St. executed, or on September 13, 1915, Rep. 749, 23 N. E. 186; Bates v. United when it was delivered and took effect. L. Ins. Asso. 68 Hun, 144, 22 N. Y.
Homestead F. Ins. Co. v. Ison, 110 Supp. 626, affirmed in 142 N. Y. 677, Va. 18, 65 S. E. 463; Maggett v. 37 N. E. 824; Teeter V. United L. Roberts, 112 N. C. 71, 16 S. E, 919; Ins. Asso. 159 N. Y. 411, 54 N. E. Coleman v. New England Mut. L. Ins. 72; Metropolitan L. Ins. Co. v. Peeler, Co. 236 Mass. 552, 129 N. E. 288; Okla. 6 A.L.R. 441, 176 Pac. 939; McMaster v, New York L. Ins. Co. 183 Dibble v. Reliance L. Ins. Co. 170 Cal. U. S. 25, 46 L. ed. 64, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 199, 149 Pac. 171, Ann. Cas. 1917E, 10.
34; Prudential L. Ins. Co. v. Lear, 31 The death of the insured matured App. D. C. 184; Massachusetts Ben. the policy, and the rights of the par- Life Asso. v. Robinson, 104 Ga. 256, ties thereto became fixed at such 42 L.R.A. 261, 30 S. E. 918; Weil v. death and the incontestability clause Federal L. Ins. Co. 264 Ill. 425, 106 could not become operative.
N. E. 246, Ann. Cas. 1915D, 974; Royal Cable v. United States L. Ins. Co. Circle v. Achterrath, 204 Ill. 549, 63 191 U. S. 288, 48 L. ed. 188, 24 Sup. Ct. L.R.A. 452, 98 Am. St. Rep. 224, 68 Rep. 74; Phænix Mut. L. Ins. Co. v. Bai- N. E. 492; Murray v. State Mut. L. Ins. ley, 13 Wall. 616, 20 L. ed. 501; Griesa Co. 22 R. I. 524, 53 L.R.A. 742, 48 Atl. v. Mutual L. Ins. Co. 94 C. C. A. 635,169 800; Clement v. New York L. Ins. Co. Fed. 509; Riggs v. Union L. Ins. Co. 101 Tenn. 22, 42 L.R.A. 247, 70 Am. 63 C. C. A. 365, 129 Fed. 207; Jeffer- St. Rep. 650, 46 S. W. 561; American son Standard L. Ins. Co. v. McIntyre, Nat. Ins. Co. v. Briggs, Tex. Civ. 285 Fed. 570; Jefferson Standard L. App. —, 156 S. W. 909; Welch v. Union Ins. Co. v. Smith, 157 Ark. 499, 248 Cent. L. Ins. Co. 108 Iowa, 224, 50 S. W. 897; Ætna L. Ins. Co. v. Moore, L.R.A. 774, 78 N. W. 853; Citizens' L. 231 U. S. 543, 58 L. ed. 356, 34 Sup. Ct. Ins. Co. v. McClure, 138 Ky. 138, 27 Rep. 186; Prudential Ins. Co. v. Moore, L.R.A. (N.S.) 1026, 127 S. W. 749; 231 U. S. 560, 58 L. ed. 367, 34 Sup. Mutual L. Ins. Co. v. Buford, 61 Okla. Ct. Rep. 191; Mellen v. Hamilton F. 158, 160 Pac. 928; Flanigan v. Federal Ins. Co. 17 N. Y. 609.
L. Ins. Co. 231 Ill. 399, 83 N. E. 178; Notice by the insurance company Indiana Nat. L, Ins. Co. v. McGinnis, denying liability on the policy was a 180 Ind. 9, 45 L.R.A.(N.S.) 192, 101 N. "contest," and prevents the assertion E. 289; Commercial L. Ins.Co.v.McGinof an estoppel under the incontesta- nis, 50 Ind. App. 630, 97 N. E. 1018; bility clause.
Mutual L. Ins. Co. v. New, 125 La. 41, Mutual L. Ins. Co. v. Hurni Packing 27 L.R.A.(N.S.) 431, 136 Am. St. Rep. Co. 280 Fed. 18; Jefferson Standard 326, 51 So. 61; Reagan v. Union Mut. L. Ins. Co. v. McIntyre, 285 Fed. 570. L. Ins. Co. 189 Mass. 555, 2 L.R.A.
Messrs. Edwin J. Stason and Charles (N.S.) 821, 109 Am. St. Rep. 659, 76 N. M. Stilwill, for defendant in certio- E. 217, 4 Ann. Cas. 362; Drews V. rari:
Metropolitan L. Ins. Co. 79 N. J. L. 398, A provision in a contract of insur- 75 Atl. 167. ance limiting the time in which the The incontestable clause is in reality insurer may take advantage of certain a waiver, for a consideration, of the facts that might otherwise constitute right to make defense, and not a limia good defense to its liability on such tation. contract precludes every defense to Metropolitan L. Ins. Co. v. Peeler, the policy other than the defenses ex- Okla. -, 6 A.L.R. 441, 176 Pac. cepted in the provision itself, includ- 939; Clement v. New York L. Ins. Co. ing false answers in the application, 101 Tenn. 22, 42 L.R.A. 247, 70 Am. and even fraud, where the time fixed St. Rep. 650, 46 S. W. 561; Commercial by the contract is not unreasonably L. Ins. Co. v. McGinnis, 50 Ind. App. short.
630, 97 N. E. 1018. 14 R. C. L. 1200; Mutual Reserve The clause is adopted by insurance Fund Life Asso. v. Austin, 6 L.R.A. companies for the purpose of allay(N.S.) 1064, 73 C. C. A. 498, 142 Fed. ing the apprehensions of the insured, and thus enabling the companies to against the one who prepared the conincrease their business.
tract. Mutual Reserve Fund Life Asso. v. McMaster v. New York L. Ins. Co. Austin, 6 L.R.A.(N.S.) 1064, 73 C. C. 78 Fed, 33; Sheerer v. Manhattan L. A. 498, 142 Fed. 398; American Trust Ins. Co. 16 Fed. 720; Mer Rouge State Co. v. Life Ins. Co. 173 N. C. 558, 92 Bank v. Employers' Liability Assur. S. E. 706; Duvall v. National L. Ins. Co. 270 Fed. 567; Arnold v. Equitable Co. 28 Idaho, 356, L.R.A.1917E, 333, Life Assur. Soc. 228 Fed. 157; First 154 Pac. 632, Ann. Cas. 1917E, 1112; Nat. Bank v. Hartford F. Ins. Co. 95 Mutual L. Ins. Co. v. New, 125 La. 41, U. S. 673, 24 L. ed. 563; Thompson v. 27 L.R.A.(N.S.) 431, 136 Am. St. Rep. Phenix Ins. Co. 136 U. S. 287, 34 L. 326, 51 So. 61.
ed. 408, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1019; Kelley The contestable period is to be com- v. Mutual L. Ins. Co. 109 Fed. 56; puted from the date the policy bears, Mareck v. Mutual Reserve Fund Life not from the day of delivery, and the Asso. 62 Minn. 39, 54 Am. St. Rep. 613, stipulated two-year period ends two 64 N. W. 68; Kascoutas v. Federal L. years from the former date.
Ins. Co. 189 Iowa, 889, 179 N. W. 133; 14 R. C. L. 1201; Massachusetts Jones v. Continental Casualty Co. 189 Ben. Life Asso. v. Robinson, 104 Ga. Iowa, 678, 18 A.L.R. 1329, 179 N. W. 256, 42 L.R.A. 261, 30 S. E. 918; Ander- 203; Boatwright v. American L. Ins. son v. Mutual L. Ins. Co. 164 Cal. 712, Co. 191 Iowa, 253, 11 A.L.R. 1085, 180 130 Pac. 726, Ann. Cas. 1914B, 903; N. W. 321; 5 Joyce, Ins. p. 6112; Harrington v. Mutual L. Ins. Co. 21 Goodwin v. Provident Sav. Life Assur. N. D. 447, 34 L.R.A.(N.S.) 373, 131 Asso. 97 Iowa, 226, 32 L.R.A. 473, 59 N. W. 246; Meridian L. Ins. Co. v. Am. St. Rep. 411, 66 N. W. 157; Drews Milam, 172 Ky. 75, L.R.A.1917B, 103, v. Metropolitan L. Ins. Co. 79 N. J. L. 188 S. W. 879; Monahan v. Fidelity 398, 75 Atl. 167; Royal Circle v. AchMut. L. Ins. Co. 242 Ill. 488, 134 Am. terrath, 204 Ill. 549, 63 L.R.A. 452, 98 St. Rep. 337, 90 N. E. 213; Wood v. Am. St. Rep. 224, 68 N. E. 492; MuBrotherhood of American Yeoman, 148 tual L. Ins. Co. v. New, 125 La. 41, 27 Iowa, 400, 126 N. W. 949.
L.R.A.(N.S.) 431, 136 Am. St. Rep. 326, "Its date of issue" means the date of 51 So. 61; McKendree v. Southern execution as stated in the instrument. States L. Ins. Co. 112 S. C. 335, 99 S.
Commercial Mut. M. Ins. Co. v. E. 806; Woodman of World v. GilliUnion Mut. Ins. Co. 19 How. 319, 15 land, 11 Okla. 384, 67 Pac. 485. L. ed. 636; Wright v. East Riverside If the construction of language in Irrig. Dist. 70 C. C. A. 603, 138 Fed. an insurance policy is doubtful, the 313; State ex rel. Ray v. Blease, 95 S. words, being those of the insurer, are C. 403, 79 S. E. 247; Yessler v. Seattle, to be taken most strongly against the 1 Wash. 308, 25 Pac. 1014; Starr v. company, and most favorably to the Mutual L. Ins. Co. 41 Wash. 228, 83 insured. Pac. 116; Turner v. Roseberry Irrig. Grace v. American Cent. Ins. Co. 109 Dist. 33 Idaho, 760, 198 Pac. 465; Gage U. S. 278, 27 L, ed. 932, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. v. McCord, 5 Ariz. 227, 51 Pac. 977; 207; Travellers' Ins. Co. v. McConkey, Union Ins. Co. v. American F. Ins. Co. 127 U. S. 661, 32 L. ed. 308, 8 Sup. Ct. 107 Cal. 327, 28 L.R.A. 692, 48 Am. St. Rep. 1360; Moulor v. American L. Ins. Rep. 140, 40 Pac. 431; American Co. 111 U. S. 335, 28 L. ed. 447, 4 Sup. Bridge Co. v. Wheeler, 35 Wash. 40, Ct. Rep. 466; Burkheiser v. Mutual 76 Pac. 534; Wood v. Brotherhood of Acci. Asso. 26 L.R.A. 112, 10 C. C. A. American Yeoman, 148 Iowa, 400, 126 94, 18 U. S. App. 704, 61 Fed. 816; N. W. 949.
Liverpool & L. & G. Ins. Co. v. McNeill, "Its date of issue" does not mean 32 C. C. A. 180, 59 U. S. App. 499, 89 the date of the delivery.
Fed. 131; Canton Ins. Office v. WoodKansas Mut. L. Ins. Co. v. Coalson, side, 33 C. C. A. 68, 61 U. S. App. 22 Tex. Civ. App. 64, 54 S. W. 388; 214, 90 Fed. 301; Imperial F. Ins. Co. Stringham v. Mutual L, Ins. Co. 44 Or. v. Coos County, 151 U. S. 452, 38 L. 447, 75 Pac. 822; Hubbard v. Hartford ed. 231, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 379; McMasF. Ins. Co. 33 Iowa, 325, 11 Am. Rep. ter v. New York L. Ins. Co. 40 C. C. A. 125.
119, 99 Fed. 856; Thompson v. Phenix One of the rules to be observed in Ins. Co. 136 U. S. 287, 34 L. ed. 408, the interpretation of contracts of this 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1019. class is that they are to be liberally The death of the insured within the construed in favor of the insured, and contestable period does not arrest the all doubts or ambiguities resolved running of the so-called short Statute
(263 U. 8. 167, 68 L. ed. –, 44 Sup. Ct. Rep. 90.) of Limitations adopted by the parties. L. Ins. Co. 22 R. I. 524, 53 L.R.A. 742, The insurer must nevertheless take 48 Atl. 800; Mutual L. Ins. Co. v. some "affirmative action," either by Buford, 61 Okla. 158, 160 Pac. 928; bringing suit, or by making defense Moran v. Moran, 144 Iowa, 451, 30 to a suit, within the stipulated time. L.R.A. (N.S.) 898, 123 N. W. 202; Ram
Black v. Ross, 110 Iowa, 112, 81 N. sey v. Old Colony L. Ins. Co. 297 Ill. W. 229; Malone v. Averill, 166 Iowa, 592, 131 N. E. 108; Reagan v. Union 78, 147 N. W. 135; Ackerman v. Hil- Mut. L. Ins. Co. 189 Mass. 555, 2 L.R.A. pert, 108 Iowa, 247, 79 N. W. 90; New (N.S.) 821, 109 Am. St. Rep. 659, 76 York L. Ins. Co. v. Baker, 27 C. C. A. N. E. 217, 4 Ann. Cas. 362; Teeter v. 658, 49 U. S. App. 690, 83 Fed. 647; United L. Ins. Asso. 159 N. Y. 411, 54 Wright v. Mutual Ben. Life Asso. 118 N. E. 72. N. Y. 237, 6 L.R.A. 731, 16 Am. St. An insurance company is not enRep. 749, 23 N. E. 186; Ebner v. Ohio titled to claim that the death of the State L. Ins. Co. 69 Ind. App. 32, 121 insured within the contestable period N. E. 315; Prudential L. Ins. Co. v. stops the running of that period, in Lear, 31 App. D. C. 184; Jefferson the absence of a showing of "special Standard L. Ins. Co. v. Wilson, 171 C. circumstances” which would prevent C. A. 357, 260 Fed. 593; American it from contesting its liability on the Trust Co. v. Life Ins. Co. 173 N. C. policy in an action at law. 558, 92 S. E. 706; Hardy v. Phønix Jefferson Standard L. Ins. Co. v. Mut. L. Ins. Co. 180 N. C. 180, 104 S. Wilson, 171 C. C. A. 357, 260 Fed. E. 166; Monahan v. Metropolitan L. 593; Greisa v. Mutual L. Ins. Co. 94 Ins. Co. 283 Ill. 136, L.R.A.1918D, 1196, C. C. A. 635, 169 Fed. 509; Riggs v. 119 N. E. 68; Plotner v. Northwestern Union L. Ins. Co. 63 C. C. A. 365, 129 Nat. L. Ins. Co. - N. D. 183 N. W. Fed. 207; Cable v. United States L. 1000; Ramsey v. Old Colony L. Ins. Ins. Co. 191 U. S. 288, 48 L. ed. 188, Co. 297 Ill. 592, 131 N. E. 108.
24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 74; Monahan v. MetAn insurer seeking to contest a ropolitan L. Ins. Co. 283 Ill. 136, policy on the ground of fraud must act L.R.A.1918D, 1196, 119 N. E. 68; with diligence upon discovering the Phenix Mut. L. Ins. Co. v. Bailey, 13 fraud.
Wall. 616, 20 L. ed. 501; Ramsey v. Ramsey v. Old Colony L. Ins. Co. Old
Colony L. Ins. Co. 297 Ill. 592, 131 supra; Clement y. New York L. Ins. N. E. 108; Bankers Reserve Life Co. Co. 101 Tenn. 22, 42 L.R.A. 247, 70 v. Omberson, 123 Minn, 285, 48 L.R.A. Am. St. Rep. 650, 46 S. W. 561; Com- (N.S.) 265, 143 N. W. 735. mercial L. Ins. Co. v. McGinnis, 50
Mr. Justice Sutherland delivered Ind. App. 630, 97 N. E. 1018. The insurance company must “con
the opinion of the court: test” the policy by taking some af
This is an action to recover the firmative action, either by making de
amount of a life insurance policy isfense to an action brought to recover
sued by the petitioner to Rudolph on the policy, or by an action brought Hurni. At the conclusion of the eviby it to cancel or rescind the contract. dence the jury found for the plainMonahan v. Metropolitan L. Ins. Co.
tiff, respondent here, under the perL.R.A.1918D, 1196, note; Jefferson
emptory instruction of the court, Standard L. Ins. Co. v. Wilson, 171 C.
and judgment was rendered accordC. A. 357, 260 Fed. 593; 2 Black, Rescission & Cancellation, p. 1155; Eb
ingly. Upon appeal this judgment ner v. Ohio State L. Ins. Co. 69 Ind. was affirmed by the court of appeals. App. 32, 121 N. E. 315; Massachusetts 280 Fed. 18. Ben. L. Ins. Co. v. Robinson, 104 Ga. There were two trials below. Up256, 42 L.R.A. 261, 30 S. E. 918; Indiana on appeal following the first, the Nat. L. Ins. Co. v. McGinnis, 180 Ind. court of appeals reversed a judg9, 45 L.R.A.(N.S.) 192, 101 N. E. 289; ment in favor of plaintiff on the Commercial L. Ins. Co. v. McGinnis, 50
ground of material misrepresentaInd. App. 630, 97 N. E. 1018; Wright v.
tion by the insured. 171 C. C. A. Mutual Ben. Life Asso. 43 Hun, 61;
405, 260 Fed. 641. Pending the secDuvall v. National L. Ins. Co. 28 Idaho, 356, L.R.A.1917E, 333, 154 Pac. 632,
ond trial plaintiff amended its reply Ann. Cas. 1917E, 1112; American
to the answer and alleged for the Trust Co. v. Life Ins. Co. 173 N. C. 558,
first time that this defense was 92 S. E. 706; Murray v. State Mut. barred, under the terms of the pol
icy, by defendant's failure to con- came operative, even within the test within two years.
conventional limitation. The policy was applied for on First. The rule is settled that, in September 2, 1915. It was in fact case of ambiguity, that construction executed on September 7th, but an- of the policy will be adopted which tedated as of August 23, 1915, and is most favorable to was delivered to insured about Sep- the insured. The construction of tember 13th. The insured died on language employed
policy-method. July 4, 1917.
is that of the company, and it is conThe application provides that “the
sistent with both reason and justice applicant upon request may have the that any fair doubt as to the meanpolicy antedated for a period not to ing of its own words should be reexceed six months." Underneath solved against it. First Nat. Bank the heading of the application there v. Hartford F. Ins. Co. 95 U. S. 673, was written the direction: "Date 678, 679, 24 L. ed. 563, 565; Thomppolicy August 23, 1915; age 47.” son v. Phenix Ins. Co. 136 U. S. 287, The testimonium clause, followed by 297, 34 L. ed. 408, 413, 10 Sup. Ct. the signatures of the officials, reads: Rep. 1019; Imperial F. Ins. Co. v. “In witness whereof the company Coos County, 151 U. S. 452, 462, 38 has caused this policy to be executed L. ed. 231, 235, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 379. this 23d day of August, 1915.” The The word "date" is used frequentpolicy acknowledges the receipt of ly to designate the actual time when the first premium, and provides that
an event takes place; but, as apa like amount shall be paid “upon plied to written ineach 23d day of August hereafter struments, its pri- Words and
date.” until the death of the insured." mary signification
The determination of the case de- is the time specified therein. Inpends upon the meaning of a clause
deed, this is the meaning which its in the policy as follows: “Incon
derivation (datus=given) most nattestability. This policy shall be in
urally suggests. In Bement v. Trencontestable, except for nonpayment
ton Locomotive & Mach. Mfg. Co. of premiums, provided two years
32 N. J. L. 513, 515, 516, it is said: shall have elapsed from its date of
“The primary signification of the issue." The trial court held that the
word 'date' is not time in the abwords “its date of issue" were to be
stract, nor time taken absolutely, construed as referring to the date
but, as its derivation plainly indi
cates, time 'given' or specified, upon the face of the policy, viz.:
time in some way ascertained and August 23, 1915; and this was also the view of the court of appeals. word' is commonly used. When we
fixed; this is the sense in which the The first action taken by the insur- speak of the date of a deed, we do ance company to avail itself of the
not mean the time when it was acmisrepresentation of the insured
tually executed, but the time of its was on the 24th day of August, execution, as given or stated in the 1917, one day beyond the period of deed itself. The date of an item, or two years after the conventional of a charge in a book account, is not date of the policy. It is contended necessarily the time when the article on behalf of the insurance company: charged was, in fact, furnished, but (1) That the period of incontesta- simply the time given or set down in bility did not begin to run until the the account, in connection with such delivery of the policy, or, in any charge.” This language was used event, until its actual execution on in construing a provision of the New September 7th; and (2) that the Jersey lien law to the effect that no policy was matured by the death of lien should be enforced unless sumthe insured, and the rights of the mons be issued "within one year parties thereby became fixed, so that from the date of the last work done, the incontestability clause never be- or materials furnished, in such