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Carroll v. Prudential Insurance Co.

Decided: October 10, 1940.

ANNETTE M. CARROLL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Essex County Circuit Court.

For the plaintiff-appellant, Gilhooly & Yauch.

For the defendant-respondent, Lindabury, Depue & Faulks.

Wells

The opinion of the court was delivered by

WELLS, J. This is an appeal from a judgment entered in the Essex County Circuit Court, based on the verdict of a jury as directed by the court, in favor of the defendant, The Prudential Insurance Company, and against the plaintiff, Annette M. Carroll.

On July 10th, 1935, the defendant company issued a policy of insurance on the life of one John Thomas Carroll, payable to "Annette M. Carroll, beneficiary, wife of the insured." This policy provided for the payment of $5,000 upon due proof of the death of the insured, and an additional benefit of $5,000 in the event of death by accidental means, subject to the conditions of the policy.

Under the heading "General Provisions" the policy stated: "If within two years from the date hereof the insured, whether sane or insane, shall die by suicide, the liability of the Company shall not exceed the amount of the premiums paid on this policy." Under the heading, "Benefit in Event of Death by Accidental Means," the policy stated: "Said Benefit shall not be payable if such death resulted from suicide, while sane or insane."

In the late afternoon of February 8th, 1937, the insured, John Thomas Carroll, was found dead at his place of business, a service station operated by the Warner Quinlan Company where he had been employed as manager under the name of John Thomas. The cause of death was undisputed and established by competent medical testimony as having resulted from the swallowing of carbolic acid.

In due time following the death the plaintiff, as beneficiary, made claim upon the defendant for payment of both the primary and accidental benefits provided under the policy. The defendant refused to recognize this claim except for an offer to return the amount of premiums paid, contending that death resulted from suicide. As a result, this action was initiated below, the plaintiff alleging in two counts that there was due first, the amount of $5,000 payable because of the death, and second, an additional amount of $5,000 payable because death resulted from accidental means.

At the trial the plaintiff proved the policy, the finding of the body, and the death resulting from carbolic acid poisoning. It was shown on cross-examination that carbolic acid has a strong odor and burns the mucous membrane, but that there were no burns about the lips, chin or front of the month of the insured.

On its part the defendant introduced evidence to show that the insured had been short in his accounts and that his defalcation had been discovered only a short time prior to death. There was also testimony that just prior to his death the insured had said to a fellow employe, "they caught up to me," and "it's a tough life." On cross-examination it was brought out that the insured was normal in ...


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