Wolferth's testimony that the accident was the cause of death, plaintiff would be entitled to recover. (R. 219.) However, if among other things the jury did not believe Dr. Wadsworth's or Dr. Wolferth's testimony in this regard, it was to find for defendant.(R. 219, 220.) The court also cautioned the jury that if it found that mental anxiety caused the thrombosis, there could be no recovery under the policy. (R. 215.)
There was no affirmative charge that if the jury found that the insured died of an active heart disease, as distinguished from an injury aggravating and rendering fatal a pre-existing infirmity, there could be no recovery. However, the testimony discloses that the court would not have been justified in permitting an affirmative finding to this effect. Both Dr. Wadsworth and Dr. Wolferth testified that there was no active disease process. While Dr. Blackburn vaguely termed coronary sclerosis a disease, he did not indicate whether he meant by this an active process at the time of death or a pre-existing infirmity. Moreover, his statements in the proofs of death and the certificate of death were based not upon a personal examination of the insured but from the symptoms described to him by Mrs. Young. (R. 123.) The report was noted to be subject to the autopsy findings. (R. 124.) As already indicated, Dr. Wadsworth, who performed the autopsy, denied the existence of a heart disease at the time of the injury and death.On the whole, the court made it clear to the jury that in order to find for plaintiff, it must be found that the insured died as a result of an accidental injury through external means and that, in this regard, it must find that the heart condition involved was merely a pre-existing infirmity which, although rendering fatal a blow that otherwise might not have been so, did not become a proximate cause of death under the Pennsylvania rule. The court alluded to the medical testimony that there was no active disease process (R. 213, 220) and specifically charged that this testimony must be believed by the jury before recovery could be given. (R. 219, 220).
In rendering its verdict for the plaintiff, the jury therefore evidently believed the testimony of Dr. Wadsworth and Dr. Wolferth and found that death was caused by an accidental external injury. Under the decisons noted supra, the injury was the proximate cause of death within the meaning of the double indemnity provision of the insurance policy. In sum, defendant's exception on this account cannot be sustained.
Defendant's final argument is that in the proofs of death, Dr. Blackburn stated that the insured died to coronary sclerosis, and later, at the trial, he termed this a "heart disease". In its argument, defendant cites indiscriminately cases involving proofs of death submitted by a claimant and those made out by a physician. In the instant case, the claimant's statement was that the cause of death was "injury to heart following automobile accident". Therefore, any advantage that defendant seeks to draw from the proofs of death must be predicated upon the statements made by the physician. Also, there are the identical statements by Dr. Blackburn in the Certificate of Death.
Defendant concedes that the foregoing documents were not conclusive upon plaintiff and that the statements made therein might be explained or contradicted at the trial. Undoubtedly, this is the general rule. See Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, 1891, 140 U.S. 76, 11 S. Ct. 720, 35 L. Ed. 371; Jensen v. Continental Life Ins. Co., 3 Cir., 1928, 28 F.2d 545; Evans v. Penn Mutual Life Ins. Co., 1936, 322 Pa. 547, 186 A. 133; Holleran v. Life Assurance Co. of America, 1902, 18 Pa.Super. 573. See also an excellent annotation in point in 93 A.L.R. 1342. Defendant's position is that plaintiff's evidence confirmed the alleged representation of disease as the cause of death appearing in the documents heretofore mentioned. From what already has been stated it is evident that defendant's argument is not merely untenable but totally specious. All of the expert medical testimony, with the exception of Dr. Blackburn's general and unexplained reference to coronary sclerosis as a heart disease, contradicted any implication of the statements in the above documents that the sole or concurring cause of death was that of heart disease. On the contrary, they reiterated continually that the insured suffered from no active disease process. Dr. Blackburn's report itself stated that it was subject to the findings of the autopsy made by Dr. Wadsworth who specifically denied the conclusion sought to be established by the defendant.
The foregoing discussion was, primarily, a consideration of the arguments set forth in the brief of counsel for defendant. Upon examination of defendant's exceptions in support of its motion for a new trial, etc., I find nothing in the exceptions 1 to 11, inclusive, which would require additional comment. Exceptions 12, 13 and 14 apparently raise the objection that the charge of the court assumed the insured was in the car at the time of the collision. Exception 18 similarly is related to this question. However, upon the suggestion of Mr. Reilly, counsel for defendant, the record indicates that the court corrected this misimpression and said that it was for the jury to determine whether Young was in the car, whether there was an accident or physical injury therefrom, and so forth. (R. 228.) Exception 15 is an objection to the statement of the law made in the court's charge and this already has been discussed. Exception 16 is to the effect that the court failed to comment that Dr. Blackburn stated that his declarations in the proofs of death, etc., had been proven by the autopsy. An examination of the record compels a denial that Dr. Blackburn so testified. In response to a request by Mr. Comber, attorney for plaintiff, to decipher certain writing on the documents, Dr. Blackburn answered that it said: "This report is supported -- is subject to autopsy findings."
Exception 19 raises the objection that the court failed to charge the jury that plaintiff was estopped by the declarations in the proofs of death submitted. Again, there is little substance to the exception taken. As already indicated, no such estoppel is imposed by law. Further, the statements of Dr. Blackburn in the documents in question were merely that insured died of coronary sclerosis which Dr. Wadsworth and Dr. Wolferth denied was an active disease process. The court charged the jury to consider these documents together with all of the other evidence. It would seem clear that, on the contrary, a charge of estoppel, requested by defendant, most certainly would have constituted reversible error. Finally, exception 20 is an allegation that the charge permitted a verdict for plaintiff under several different lines of proof from the testimony. The fallacies proffered by defendant, in this connection, have been discussed previously and, therefore, need no further restatement.
On the whole, the conclusion reached is that the exceptions taken by the defendant fail to indicate any prejudicial error. The defendant's motions to set aside the verdict and for a new trial are accordingly denied, with leave to the plaintiff to enter judgment on the verdict, with interest and costs.