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REIVER v. SAFEGUARD PRECISION PRODUCTS (06/28/76)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: June 28, 1976.

REIVER
v.
SAFEGUARD PRECISION PRODUCTS, INC., APPELLANT

Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, March T., 1972, No. 5044, in case of Florence Reiver v. Safeguard Precision Products, Inc.

COUNSEL

Raymond T. Cullen, Jr., with him Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for appellant.

Richard J. Gordon, with him Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Levy, for appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J. Hoffman, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Jacobs

[ 240 Pa. Super. Page 573]

The facts in this case are not in dispute, and are summarized in the opinion of the lower court:

"The facts established that the plaintiff's decedent, Samuel Reiver, was issued Life Insurance Policy 31-B-001 by Postal Life Insurance Company, effective August 15, 1960. Said policy, as amended, was assumed by Bankers Security Life Insurance Society and designated Policy No. 329,024 on August 15, 1969.

"For several years prior to 1968, Samuel Reiver had been General Manager of Penn El Service Company. This company was acquired by Safeguard Precision Products, Inc. [Safeguard, defendant-appellant] in February 1968, and at that time Samuel Reiver was to be employed as General Manager of the Penn El Service Company, a division of Safeguard Precision Products, Inc., for a period of five (5) years. Accordingly, an employment agreement*fn1 was executed on February 16, 1968, between

[ 240 Pa. Super. Page 574]

Samuel Reiver and the defendant, in which the defendant undertook to employ Plaintiff's decedent as General Manager of its Penn El Service Company, for which he was to receive $50,000. compensation for the first year and $25,000. per annum for the next four years. Likewise, commencing on February 16, 1968, the Defendant undertook to pay the premiums on the decedent's insurance policy [ see note 1 supra]. Thus the Defendant paid the premiums on the decedent's life insurance policy for the years 1968, 1969 and 1970. The Defendant had the option of paying the premium upon Reiver's life insurance policy to pay the premiums semiannually, quarterly or yearly, and that the Defendant chose to pay said premiums on yearly basis, such amount approximating $12,000. per annum.

"Samuel Reiver died December 23, 1970, and thereafter the insurance company paid to the decedent's beneficiary the face amount of the policy, $249,700., less the amount due said insurance company by reason of a loan to decedent in the amount of $69,416.60, plus an interest refund of $2,144.97 and a return premium of $6,602.68. The return premium of $6,602.68 paid to the Plaintiff by the Bankers Security Life Insurance Society represents the portion of the premium for the policy year commencing on August 15, 1970, applicable to the period from December 23, 1970 to August 15, 1971, the entire amount of which had been prepaid by the defendant.*fn2

[ 240 Pa. Super. Page 575]

"Plaintiff retained the death benefit proceeds from the insurance policy plus interest and the return premium. Thereafter Defendant made claim to Plaintiff for the payment of the returned premium in the amount of $6,602.68. Plaintiff refused, whereupon Defendant, still owing the decedent's beneficiary $25,000., in accordance with the amended Employment Agreement, [ see note 1 supra], deducted $6,602.68, as the amount of set-off between the amount of the returned premium claimed by the Defendant and the $25,000. owed to Plaintiff as named beneficiary of Samuel Reiver, as per Samuel Reiver's notification of April 29, 1969. [ See note 1 supra.] The Defendant paid Plaintiff the sum of $18,397.32, precipitating this issue into Court." (Emphasis added.) (Footnote added.)

The plaintiff-appellee "precipitated this issue into Court" by filing a Complaint in Assumpsit to enforce her right to the entire $25,000 death benefit to which she was entitled under the employment agreement as amended. See note 1 supra. Safeguard, in New Matter set up the following defense:

"18. Plaintiff was unjustly enriched by the retention of said returned premium of $6,602.68.

"19. Defendant has setoff the said amount of $6,602.68 against the amount of $25,000.00 otherwise due plaintiff from defendant pursuant to the Employment Agreement as amended, and has paid to plaintiff the sum of $18,397.32." Printed Record at 8a.

The court below, found for the plaintiff-appellee. The search of the authorities, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, by the court below, by this Court and by counsel,*fn3 has not

[ 240 Pa. Super. Page 576]

    revealed any analogous cases. Safeguard's defense is unjust enrichment, a doctrine which is inapplicable to the case at bar. Try as we might, we are unable to find a contract theory, either in law or in equity, or a theory of insurance law to support the defense of unjust enrichment. "It is well established that volunteers have no right to reimbursement." Gaul v. McLaughlin, 207 Pa. Superior Ct. 434, 436, 217 A.2d 757, 758 (1966). Safeguard had the option to make premium payments on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or yearly basis. It chose to pay the premiums on a yearly basis. "[T]he mere fact that appellant did benefit [the wife] is not of itself sufficient to require the latter to make restitution therefor." Home Owners' Loan Corp. v. Murdock, 150 Pa. Superior Ct. 284, 289, 28 A.2d 498, 500, allocatur refused, 150 Pa. Superior Ct. xxiii (citation omitted) (1942).*fn4 It is inconceivable to us that Safeguard made premium payments, totally unaware of the provisions of the insurance policy. The employment agreement, see note 1 supra, did not specify the payment options available to Safeguard, to-wit, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or yearly payment options. In New Matter, Safeguard states: "13. For the policy year commencing August 15,

[ 240 Pa. Super. Page 5771970]

, defendant elected*fn5 to pay the premium at the annual rate of $11,318.90" (Emphasis added.) (Footnote added.). In order for Safeguard to make this election it must have been aware of its options, an awareness which is only obtained from knowledge of the insurance policy provisions.

[ 240 Pa. Super. Page 578]

Moreover, there is another reason why the defense of unjust enrichment is herein not applicable. The plaintiff-appellee has not been unjustly enriched. She is in possession of money which was rightfully paid to her by the insurance company under the express terms of the insurance policy. See generally Roman Mosaic & Tile Co., Page 578} Inc. v. Vollrath, 226 Pa. Superior Ct. 215, 313 A.2d 305 (1973).

While Safeguard may have a persuasive basis for requesting special consideration, its appeal is at best superficial. We cannot escape the conclusion that the facts preclude any right to recovery from the plaintiff-appellee.

Judgment affirmed.

Disposition

Judgment affirmed.


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