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Dick v. New York Life Insurance Co., 359 U.S. 437 (1959)

Dick v. New York Life Insurance Co.

No. 58

Argued January 12, 1959

Decided May 18, 1959

359 U.S. 437


In this case, federal jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship and the issue was whether an insured died as a result of suicide or accident. He was alone when he met his death from two wounds from his double-barreled shotgun. In such circumstances, applicable state law presumes that death was accidental and places on the insurer the burden of proving that death resulted from suicide. So instructed, the jury found that death was accidental, and returned a verdict for the beneficiary. The evidence was entirely circumstantial, and could support such a verdict. The District Court denied the insurer's motions for a directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and a new trial, and entered judgment for the beneficiary. After reviewing the record, the Court of Appeals concluded that the gun could not have been fired without someone or something pulling or pushing the trigger, and that the evidence did not justify submitting the issue to the jury, and it reversed with directions to dismiss the complaint.

Held: the District Court properly submitted the issue to the jury, and the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed. Pp. 359 U. S. 437-447.

252 F.2d 43, reversed.

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