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LEGG v. ST. JOHN

decided: January 6, 1936.

LEGG
v.
ST. JOHN, TRUSTEE



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Author: Brandeis

[ 296 U.S. Page 490]

 MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question for decision is whether the bankrupt or his trustee is the person entitled to future monthly disability benefits payable under a contract entered into before the adjudication.

On March 8, 1934, Legg, a resident of Tennessee, was, on his petition, adjudged a bankrupt. He then held a policy in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company by which it agreed, in consideration of an annual premium of $425.83, to pay upon his death either $24,000 in 240 monthly installments or the single sum of $17,452, as commuted value. By a supplementary contract issued the same day and attached to the policy, the company, for an annual premium of $49.39, agreed, among other things, to pay a monthly benefit of $174.52, upon due proof that the insured had become totally and permanently disabled before the age of 60. By this provision, if Legg was "prevented

[ 296 U.S. Page 491]

     thereby from engaging in any occupation and performing any work for compensation or profit," the company undertook to:

"1. Waive the payment of each premium falling due under said Policy and this Supplementary Contract, and,

"2. Pay to the insured, or a person designated by him for the purpose, or if such disability is due to, or is accompanied by, mental incapacity, to the beneficiary of record under said Policy, a monthly income of $10 for each $1,000 of insurance, or of commuted value of installments, if any, under said Policy."

Legg had become totally and permanently disabled several years before the adjudication. The company had treated its obligation as matured; had waived the payment of premiums on both the policy and the supplementary contract; and, until the adjudication, had paid to him monthly the disability benefits. The bankrupt asked to have the life insurance policy and also the future disability benefits payable under the supplementary contract exempted from the operation of the assignment to the trustee. The latter set aside as exempt the life insurance policy and its cash surrender value, but reported that the obligation of the company to make the benefit payments was an asset of the estate. The bankrupt excepted to the report in so far as it denied these to him. The referee ruled that the right to receive them vested in the bankrupt at the time of the adjudication; and that this right given by the supplementary contract is not insurance within the meaning of the laws granting exemptions. He accordingly overruled the exception of the bankrupt. But he directed that of the $174.52 payable monthly, the bankrupt should receive $40 as income exempt under the Tennessee law; and the trustee the balance, namely $134.52. The trustee acquiesced in the decision; the bankrupt sought review. The District Court confirmed the referee's order; and its judgment was affirmed

[ 296 U.S. Page 492]

     by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 76 F.2d 841. This Court granted certiorari, conflict in decisions being alleged. 295 U.S. 728.

The bankrupt contends that the "Supplementary Contract" covering disability is not a separate and distinct contract, but an integral part of the life insurance policy; that the obligation to pay disability benefits is insurance within the meaning of ยง 70 (a) of the Bankruptcy Act; that it did not pass to the trustee, since that feature has no cash surrender value; and that if it be held that the contract for disability benefits has a cash surrender value, its amount should be ascertained and the bankrupt be given the opportunity, by paying such value to the trustee, to hold the obligation free from the claims of creditors. The bankrupt contends further that any future disability payments are in the nature of future earnings or after-acquired property and, hence, do not pass ...


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