Appeal, No. 150, Oct. T., 1960, from judgment of Municipal Court of Philadelphia County, Jan. T., 1958, No. 3142, in case of Lena Boyd v. Operating Engineers Welfare Fund of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware et al. Judgment affirmed.
Thomas N. O'Neill, Jr., with him Charles A. Wolfe, for appellants.
Max Meshon, with him Eilberg, Meshon & Brener, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, Watkins, and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 193 Pa. Super. Page 439]
This appeal is from the judgment of the Municipal Court of Philadelphia County, awarding the sum of $2,500.00 with interest on a claim for double indemnity benefits against appellants.
[ 193 Pa. Super. Page 440]
Lena Boyd, widow of Hugh Boyd, filed an action in assumpsit against appellants to recover $2,500.00 accidental death benefits from a union welfare fund. Her husband, during his lifetime, was a member in good standing in the International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union No. 542. On December 5, 1952, he committed suicide. The present trust fund, against which the claim was made, resulted from the merger of two previously existing trust funds. The first of these was the Operating Engineers Welfare Fund of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, created by a declaration of trust dated August 17, 1950, which was deposited with the Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company and became known as the Fidelity Fund. The second was known as Local 542 Operating Engineers Welfare Fund, created by a declaration of trust dated June 17, 1952, which was deposited with the Broad Street Trust Company and became known as the Broad Street Fund. These two funds were merged into a third trust fund by declaration of trust dated January 8, 1953, known as the International Union of Operating Engineers Welfare Fund of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware or the 1953 Fund. This trust fund was operated by eight trustees nominated equally by the union and the employers.
All moneys constituting the trust funds were contributed by the employers of the respective members of the union and an operating engineer became a beneficiary of the trust fund, prior to merger, to which his employer contributed. The employer of Hugh Boyd contributed to the so-called Fidelity Fund and, after the death of her husband, Mrs. Boyd made application for the payment of benefits from the Fidelity Fund. The sum of $2,500.00 was in fact paid without question and this payment is not involved in the present litigation.
[ 193 Pa. Super. Page 441]
On January 21, 1952, Howard Mills, a member of the Fidelity Fund, committed suicide and his estate was paid $5,000.00 from this trust fund, being $2,500.00 for regular death benefits and $2,500.00 as accidental benefits. This fund ruled that suicide was an accidental death. In September, 1952, the board of trustees of the Broad Street Fund discussed the ruling of the Fidelity Fund in regard to ruling suicide as accidental death, and a resolution was passed to the effect that suicidal death was to be considered as accidental under the terms of the welfare agreement. It is important to note these actions because at the time of the death of Hugh Boyd there was no difference of policy in either fund regarding death by suicide, and when the new fund was created by the merging of the two trust funds previously in existence, an operating policy had been created.
After the creation of the 1953 Fund and after the receipt of the regular death benefits of $2,500.00, appellee made application for an additional $2,500.00 as extra benefit paid in cases of accidental death. In considering this claim, the trustees of the 1953 Fund ruled that this claim should not be recognized as an accidental death claim. There was testimony to the effect that this ruling was predicated on a discussion that Mr. Boyd was not a good union man and that in his case the claim should not be recognized. On May 11, 1953, therefore, the trustees of the 1953 Fund resolved not to include self-destruction within their definition of accidental death ...