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April 14, 1884


This is an action upon a policy of insurance issued by the American Life Insurance Company of Philadelphia. By its terms the amount insured–$10,000–is payable to Emilie Moulor, the plaintiff in error, her executors, administrators, and assigns, within 60 days after due notice and satisfactory proof of interest and of the death of her husband, the insured, certain indebtedness to the company being first deducted. Upon the first trial there was a verdict for the plaintiff, which was set aside and a new trial awarded. At the next trial the jury were peremptorily instructed to find for the company, and judgment was accordingly entered in its behalf. Upon writ of error to this court that judgment was reversed upon the ground that, as to certain issues arising out of the evidence, the case should have been submitted to the jury. Moulor v. Ins. Co. 101 U.S. 708. At the last trial there was a verdict and judgment for the defendant.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harlan, J.

James Parsons, for plaintiff in error.

Henry Hazlehurst and Isaac Hazlehurst, for defendant in error.

Upon that trial the plaintiff offered to show, by the testimony of witnesses, that at a previous trial, in 1875, the company went to the jury upon the single issue of an alleged breach of warranty, and did not seek a verdict upon the ground that the insured had committed suicide. The offer was denied, and the action of the court thereon is assigned for error. The avowed object of the proof was to establish a waiver by the company of any defense founded upon that clause of the policy which declares that it shall be void in case the insured 'die by his own band.' Undoubtedly, it was competent for the company to waive that or any other defense arising out of the conditions of the policy; but clearly, its willingness, at one trial, to risk its case before the jury, upon a single one of several issues made, did not preclude it, at a subsequent trial, from insisting upon other defenses, involving the merits which had not been withdrawn of record or abandoned in pursuance of an agreement with the plaintiff.

After the evidence was closed, the plaintiff submitted to the court a series of instructions, 23 in number, and asked that the jury be charged as therein indicated. As to instructions 11, 12, and 19, no ruling was made, nor was an exception taken for the failure of the court to pass upon them. The twenty-third, relating to the before-mentioned waiver of defense, upon the ground of self-destruction, was rightly refused, because the evidence showed no such waiver. As to the remaining instructions, the court said, generally, that the propositions announced in them could not be affirmed, because they were either unsound or irrelevant. A general exception was taken to the 'answers' of the court to the application to charge the jury as indicated in plaintiff's points. That exception, however, was too vague and indefinite. Some of the instructions submitted might well have been given, while others were abstract, or did not embody a correct exposition of the law of the case. Those instructions, although separately numbered, seem to have been presented as one request, and the exception was general as to the action of the court in respect of them all. If it was intended to save an exception as to distinct propositions embodied in the instructions, the attention of the court should have been directed to the specific points concerning which it was supposed error had been committed. As some of the plaintiff's instructions were properly overruled, we ought not, under the general exception taken, to reverse the judgment merely because, in the series presented as one request, there were some which ought to have been given. Indianapolis, etc., R. Co. v. Horst, 93 U. S. 295; Rogers v. The Marshal, 1 Wall. 644; Harvey v. Tyler, 2 Wall. 338; Johnson v. Jones, 1 Black, 209; Beaver v. Taylor, 93 U. S. 46; Beckwith v. Bean, 98 U. S. 284.

But there were certain parts of the charge to which exceptions were taken in due form. The rulings, the correctness of which is questioned by the assignments of error, will be presently stated. It is necessary that we should first ascertain the precise nature of the case disclosed by the evidence.

The seventh question in the application for insurance required the insured to answer yes or no, as to whether he had ever been afflicted with any of the following diseases: Insanity, gout, rheumatism, palsy, scrofula, convulsions, dropsy, small-pox, yellow-fever, fistula, rupture, asthma, spitting of blood, consumption, and diseases of the lungs, throat, heart, and urinary organs. As to each the answer of the insured was, no.

The tenth question was: 'Has the party's father, mother, brothers, or sisters been afflicted with consumption or any other serious family disease, such as scrofula, insanity, etc.?' The answer was, 'No, not since childhood.'

The fourteenth question was: 'Is there any circumstance which renders an insurance on his life more than usually hazardous, such as place of residence, occupation, physical condition, family history, hereditary predispositions, constitutional infirmity, or other known cause, or any other circumstance or information with which the company ought to be made acquainted?' The answer was, no.

To the sixteenth question, 'Has the applicant reviwed the answers to the foregoing questions, and is it clearly understood and agreed that any untrue or fraudulent answers, or any suppression of facts in regard to health, habits, or circumstances, or neglect to pay the premium on or before the time it becomes due, will, according to the terms of the policy, vitiate the same and forfeit all payments made thereon?' the answer was, yes.

At the close of the series of questions, 19 in number, propounded to and answered by the applicant, are the following paragraphs:

'It is hereby declared and warranted that the above are fair and true answers to the foregoing questions; and it is acknowledged and agreed by the undersigned that this application shall form a part of the contract of insurance, and that if there be, in any of the answers herein made, any untrue or evasive statements, or any misrepresentation or concealment of facts, then any policy granted upon this application shall be null and void, and all payments made thereon shall be forfeited to the company.

'And it is further agreed that if at any time hereafter the company shall discover that any of said answers or statements are untrue or evasive, or that there has been any concealment of facts, then, and in every such case, the company may refuse to receive further premiums on any policy so granted upon this application, and said policy shall be null and void, and payments forfeited as aforesaid.'

The policy recites that the agreement of the company to pay the sum specified is 'in consideration of the representations made to them in the application,' and of the payment of the premium at the time specified; further, 'it is hereby declared and agreed that if the representations and answers made to this company, on the application for this policy, upon the full faith of which it is issued, shall be found to be untrue in any respect, ...

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