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Jorgenson v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Decided: September 23, 1947.

IRENE JORGENSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE CO., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Middlesex County Court of Common Pleas.

For the plaintiff-appellant, David I. Stepacoff (James F. Patten, of counsel).

For the defendant-respondent, Clifford I. Voorhees.

Amicus curiae, Nathan Duff, for the United War Veterans of America (World War II).

Before Justices Bodine, Heher and Wachenfeld.

Wachenfeld

The opinion of the court was delivered by

WACHENFELD, J. This case presents the construction and validity of a life insurance policy provision exempting liability for accidental death benefit, i.e., double indemnity, where death occurs while insured is in military or naval service in time of war.

The respondent issued on August 3d, 1936, two policies of life insurance on the life of Wilbur Jorgenson under which the appellant, his wife, was the beneficiary. Each policy was for the principal sum of $500 and provided double that sum would become due and payable as a result of the accidental death of the insured, but liability was limited by the following provision: "No Accidental Death Benefit will be paid if the death of the Insured is the result of self-destruction * * * or while the Insured is in military or naval service in time of war."

On October 18th, 1944, the insured was a member of the United States Army in the corps of military police on duty at Bangalore, India. While on town patrol in that city, the motorcycle which he was riding became involved in an accident and he suffered a fractured skull from which he died the same date.

Upon proof of death and claim for $1,000 under each policy, the company only paid the principal sum of $500, refusing to pay the sum due for accidental death on the ground the insured was not covered since he was a member of the military forces in time of war. In an action instituted to recover the additional $500 under each policy, the Middlesex County Court of Common Pleas, on a stipulation of facts rendered judgment in favor of the respondent.

The first question presented is one of construction as to whether the provision exempting liability of the insurer applies to death from any cause while insured in in military service or merely to death due to a cause peculiar to such service. Admittedly the insured was a member of the United States armed forces, stationed in India in time of war at the time of his death. The language of the exemption clause clearly expressed the intention to establish such status as the

basis of exemption from liability. Caruso v. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance ...


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