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BLUMENSCHEIN v. SECURITY CONNECTICUT LIFE INS. CO.

May 24, 1984

LaReita BLUMENSCHEIN, Plaintiff
v.
SECURITY CONNECTICUT LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCUNE

BARRON P. McCUNE, District Judge:

 In this diversity action we consider plaintiff's motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial. For the reasons that follow, the motions will be denied.

 Facts

 Plaintiff, LaReita Blumenschein, was the beneficiary under a policy insuring the life of her husband, Ronald Blumenschein deceased. The insurance policy was a declining term policy designed to pay the balance of a mortgage. The monthly premiums decreased each year, as did the face amount of the policy. It was issued on April 8, 1977.

 Ronald Blumenschein died March 4, 1979. Plaintiff testified to the following facts concerning her husband's death. Mr. Blumenschein walked from their apartment building to a storage shed near their home to retrieve a medicine chest that he was going to install in one of the apartments in the building. While Mr. Blumenschein was in the shed, Mrs. Blumenschein received a telephone call that required her husband's attention. She went to the shed and saw that the doors were closed. Upon entering, plaintiff observed her husband's shirt and called to him, while continuing to make her way to him. She found her husband hanging from the rafters of the building, suspended by a nylon rope. She called the police and an ambulance, and acting upon the police dispatcher's advice, cut the rope so that her husband fell to the ground. The police arrived shortly thereafter.

 The police chief testified that he did not conduct an extensive investigation because there was nothing to indicate the occurrence of foul play. The coroner testified similarly. Both men opined that Mr. Blumenschein committed suicide.

 The insurance policy involved herein contains a provision captioned SUICIDE (hereinafter suicide clause). It provides,

 
In event of suicide of the Insured, while sane or insane, within two years from the Issue Date, the amount payable by the Company shall be limited to the amount of premium paid.

 Defendant, Security-Connecticut Life Insurance Company, refused to honor plaintiff's claim, based upon the above-quoted provision of the policy. Plaintiff raised the issue at trial that the defendant had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the death was due to suicide. There was a defense verdict.

 Motion for Judgment N.O.V.

 Plaintiff asserts, in support of this motion, that the suicide clause violates the public policy of Pennsylvania, therefore judgment should be awarded in her favor. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the two year time limit is arbitrary and unreasonable, and bears no relation to the insurance company's interest in protecting itself from an insured who purchases life insurance while contemplating suicide.

 In considering a motion for judgment n.o.v. the court must proceed cautiously, and such motion should be granted sparingly. Marian Bank v. Intern. Harvester Credit Corp., 550 F. Supp. 456 (E.D. Pa. 1982), affirmed, 725 F.2d 669 (3d Cir. 1983). "The jury's verdict may be set aside only if manifest injustice will result if it were allowed to stand." Id., at 460. The motion may be granted only when there is but one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment, without weighing the credibility of the evidence. Woodward and Dickerson, Inc. v. Yoo Hoo Beverage Co., 502 F. Supp. 395 (E.D. Pa. 1980), affirmed, 661 F.2d 916 (3d Cir. 1981); 5A Moore's Federal Practice, para. 50.07[2] at 50-76, 50-77 (2d ed. 1982). There is no disagreement between the parties that Pennsylvania substantive law applies in this diversity action. Daburlos v. Commercial Ins. Co. of Newark, N.J. 521 F.2d 18 (3d Cir. 1975).

 Prior to trial we held an unrecorded conference with counsel, during which we ruled, inter alia, that the inclusion of a suicide clause in a policy of life insurance does not violate the public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During a side bar at trial, we placed on the record our pretrial ruling. *fn1" Thereafter, at the close of defendant's case, plaintiff moved for a directed verdict based upon her public policy argument. We denied the motion.


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