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MOULOR V. AMERICAN LIFE INS. CO., 111 U. S. 335 (1884)

U.S. Supreme Court

Moulor v. American Life Ins. Co., 111 U.S. 335 (1884)

Moulor v. American Life Insurance Company

Argued March 11, 1884

Decided April 14, 1884

111 U.S. 335


Going to the jury upon one of several defenses does not preclude the defendant, at a subsequent trial, from insisting upon other defenses involving the merits which have not been withdrawn of record or abandoned in pursuance of an agreement with the opposite side.

A judgment will not be reversed upon a general exception to the refusal of the court to grant a series of instructions, presented as one request, because there happen to be in the series some which ought to have been given.

The principle reaffirmed that when a policy of insurance contains contradictory provisions or has been so framed as to leave room for construction, rendering it doubtful whether the parties intended the exact truth of the applicant's statements to be a condition precedent to any binding contract, the court should lean against that construction which imposes upon the assured the obligations of a warranty.

An applicant for life insurance was required to state categorically whether he had ever been afflicted with certain specified diseases. He answered that he had not. Upon an examination of the several clauses of the application in connection with the policy, it was held to be reasonably clear that the company required, as a condition precedent to a valid contract, nothing

Page 111 U. S. 336

more than that the insured would observe good faith toward it and make full, direct, and honest answers to all questions, without evasion or fraud and without suppression, misrepresentation, or concealment of facts with which the company ought to be made acquainted.

In the absence of explicit stipulations requiring such an interpretation, it should not be inferred that the insured took a life policy with the understanding that it should be void if at any time in the past he was, whether conscious of the fact or not, afflicted with the diseases, or any one of them, specified in the questions propounded by the company. Such a construction of the contract should be avoided unless clearly demanded by the established rules governing the interpretation of written instruments.

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 sixty 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. Insurance Company, 101 U. S. 708. At the last trial there was a verdict and judgment for the defendant.

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