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OAKES v. FRANKLIN LIFE INS. CO.

June 1, 1981

George O. OAKES
v.
FRANKLIN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

MEMORANDUM

In this diversity action plaintiff beneficiary seeks the payment of proceeds of a life insurance policy issued by defendant to an insured decedent who committed suicide. Plaintiff contends that, under the provisions of the policy, death occurred more than two years after the date of issue of the policy and, therefore, there is no bar to recovery. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment. The material facts are not in dispute and are stated hence:

 1. Franklin Life issued the policy to Dale M. Oakes on August 24, 1977.

 2. Under the heading "Payment of Benefits", the policy provides as follows:

 
Suicide: If within 2 years from the date of issue the insured (whether sane or insane) shall die by suicide, this policy shall automatically terminate and the amount payable in lieu of all other benefits shall be limited to the premiums paid.

 3. Under the heading, "Policy Data", the policy sets forth the date of issue as August 24, 1977.

 4. On August 18, 1979, the insured died by suicide.

 5. The beneficiary's Proof of Death Statement executed and submitted by plaintiff George O. Oakes declares that the cause of death was suicide.

 6. The Chester County Coroner's Report states that the manner of death was suicide.

 7. An autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist also determined that the manner of death was suicide.

 8. Upon the death of an insured by suicide within two years of the policy's date of issue, the policy automatically terminates and the amount payable in lieu of all other benefits is limited to the premiums paid.

 9. Franklin Life tendered to plaintiff the return of premiums paid but that sum has been refused by plaintiff.

 10. On August 10, 1977, plaintiff's son applied to Franklin Life for a life insurance policy. At that time, Franklin Life provided temporary or interim coverage pending its decision to reject the application or issue a policy. Two weeks later, Franklin Life approved the application and issued and delivered a policy bearing an issue date of August 24, 1977. Almost two years after the policy was in his possession, plaintiff's son died by suicide.

 The sole question before this court on cross-motions for summary judgment is whether the date of issue referred to in the suicide clause is the date of issue on the policy, August 24, 1977, or the date on which the insured ...


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