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PEYTON v. UNITED STATES STEEL COMPANY (11/13/51)

November 13, 1951

PEYTON
v.
UNITED STATES STEEL COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 163, March T., 1951, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1947, No. 1855, in case of Mary Peyton v. United States Steel Company. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

P. K. Motheral, with him Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellant.

Samuel J. Goldstein, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Drew

[ 368 Pa. Page 592]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW

This action in assumpsit involves a group life insurance policy and was brought by plaintiff, Mary Peyton, a beneficiary under the policy, against the United States Steel Company to recover damages suffered as a result of defendant's failure to maintain her deceased husband's, John Peyton, insurance. A jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor in the sum of $2810, which included interest on the claim of $2000, and from the judgment of the lower court denying defendant's motion for judgment n.o.v., it has appealed.

John Peyton began working for defendant on July 9, 1943, and on that day made application for and obtained a certificate of life insurance under a group insurance policy issued by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States to defendant and its employees who wished to participate therein. The certificate was in the sum of $2000 and named plaintiff as beneficiary and the application authorized defendant

[ 368 Pa. Page 593]

    to deduct from Peyton's earnings sums sufficient to cover his contributions towards the premium charges.

Peyton worked for defendant until August 14, 1943, when he failed to report for work at one of its mills. As of thhat date, defendant owed him wages totaling $11.69, which were later increased to $12.48 as a result of a retroactive adjustment in January, 1944, and the latter sum still remains in defendant's custody. On August 18, 23 and 24 of 1943, Peyton worked for a landscape gardener and was paid at the end of each day. He did not return thereafter to defendant's mill nor did he work for any other employer. But, on August 28, 1943, he was charged with a violation of the criminal law and on September 10, 1943, after pleading guilty, was sentenced to the Allegheny County Workhouse for a term. While detained in the workhouse, Peyton was found to be suffering from a tubercular condition and was thereupon transferred by court order to the Cresson Sanitarium on October 15th. A month later, Peyton deserted from the sanitarium and returned to his home where, within a few hours, he was apprehended by the police and again placed in the workhouse 0here he died on January 29, 1944.

Plaintiff initially instituted suit against the insurance carrier on the certificate issued her deceased husband. But judgment n.o.v. was entered against her based on the admitted proof that, since no premiums had been forwarded by defendant to cover the certificate, the insurance automatically ceased on September 30, 1943, for lack of payment of the required contribution to the fund. This action was then brought on the theory that Peyton gave up his active employment with defendant temporarily because of illness, that defendant had in its possession wages which were owing deceased ...


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