Appeal, No. 297, January T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 4 of Philadelphia Country, March T., 1953, No. 3739, in case of Cora V. Savidge v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Judgment reversed; reargument refused January 31, 1955.
Owen B. Rhoads, with him Gordon W. Gerber, Barnes, Dechert, Price, Myers & Rhoads and Joseph Howland Collins, General Counsel, for appellant.
James H. McHale, with him Richard J. Raab, for appellee.
Before Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE
The question involved is whether or not, under the facts of this case, a life insurance company established that it had paid the proceeds of life insurance policies to the named beneficiary. The court below ruled that it did not and directed the jury to render a verdict in favor of the beneficiary. The insurance company appeals from the refusal of the court to enter judgment for it non obstante veredicto.
Plaintiff, Cora V. Savidge, is the widow of the insured, Joseph W. Savidge. She was named as the beneficiary in four life insurance policies of the defendant, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, insuring the life of plaintiff's deceased husband. The sum payable upon the said policies aggregated $8,704.44.
In a suit in assumpsit instituted by plaintiff against defendant on April 6, 1953, she averred that the insured died May 6, 1951; that defendant did not pay plaintiff the amount of such policies which it had covenanted to pay upon the death of insured. Defendant answered that it had paid plaintiff and exhibited checks and endorsements thereon indicating payment. The issue being thus framed, the case came on for trial before a jury. Formal proof of the existence of the insurance contract and defendant's liability thereunder were fixed by the pleadings, concerning which there is no dispute. The single question is whether defendant provided facts which established legal payment by defendant.
Plaintiff testified that the insured died May 6, 1951. On the following day she delivered the policies and executed proofs death to one Arthur Benson, a trusted friend of the family, who had represented himself to be a lawyer. She further testified that "[She]
asked [Benson] to deliver [the policies and proofs of death] to the company". But plaintiff also testified, in answer to a query by the court: "Q. Do I understand you to say you gave these four policies to Mr. Benson? A. Yes. Q. Together with this proof of death? A. Yes. Q. And that shortly after that Benson reported that he had collected the money? A. Yes. He told me he put it in savings and loans. Q. But he said he collected the money from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company? A. Yes."
She further testified: "By The Court: Q. What authority did you give Mr. Benson? A. Well, he being my lawyer, naturally, I turned the things over to him. Q. Did you authorize him to collect the insurance for you? A. I didn't authorize him, no, but when I asked him about it he said, 'I have already gotten it and put it in saving funds.' So, of course, I didn't distrust him. So, I thought he did." Plaintiff admitted that she did nothing and made no claim against defendant for a period of seventeen or eighteen months after she had turned the policies and proofs of death over to Benson, and that he had told her that he had collected the funds and deposited them to the credit of the estate. The learned trial judge accurately stated in his charge to the jury: "... she ascertained the fact that checks of the defendant insurance company had been deposited in an account in her name in the Bryn Mawr Trust Company. Of course, the plain inference from this testimony, members of the jury, is that Arthur Benson procured these checks, opened an account in the name of Mrs. Savidge, and probably in some ...