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GORDON v. STATE FARM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY (09/15/64)

September 15, 1964

GORDON
v.
STATE FARM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 66, March T., 1964, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, Sept. T., 1960, No. 103, in case of Judith Bell Gordon v. State Farm Life Insurance Company. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Thomas F. Weis, with him Weis & Weis, for appellant.

James B. Ceris, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 415 Pa. Page 257]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

Larry Robert Gordon, 21 years of age, carried an accident insurance policy which would entitle the named beneficiary therein, in the event of his death, to $10,000 plus $10,000 additional if his death was the result "directly and independently of all other causes, from bodily injury effected solely through external, violent and accidental means as evidenced by a visible contusion or wound on the exterior of the body."

At about 4:00 a.m. on September 30, 1959, the insured was found dead to the rear of his automobile in a muddy field. The insurance company, after application therefor had been made by Gordon's widow,

[ 415 Pa. Page 258]

    refused to pay the additional $10,000 indicated in the policy. In the ensuing legal action the court below, sitting without jury, found in favor of the plaintiff and the defendant company appealed.

Larry Gordon was in excellent health prior to his death. The post mortem revealed that he bore no inner latent pathological clock ticking off his moments of mortality. There was evidence, on the other hand, that he was swept off the highway of life by the gasoline phantom which swings its fatal scythe with remorseless continuity, gathering in the old and the young, the male and the female every day, every month, every year.

There was evidence that Gordon's car left the highway, fell 33 feet down an embankment, spurted 14 feet, capsized and then regained its wheels. The motor of the car was still running when the decedent's body was found. There was evidence that the decedent made efforts to extricate his car from the soft earth in which its wheels had sunk because tire marks told their story of the car being driven in successively various directions for short distances.

The plaintiff produced two doctors who testified, in answer to hypothetical questions, that, in their opinion, Gordon's death was the result of the automobile accident. The defendant company produced a pathologist who stated that, in his opinion, Gordon's death was the result of the decedent's intentional overexertion in attempting to extricate his car from the miry terrain. In disposing of the motions for judgment n.o.v. and new trial, the court below said: "Defendant's principal argument is that he had a better expert witness than the plaintiff had. Defendant's expert witness had testified that in his opinion the ...


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