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Prudential Ins. Co. v. Moore

November 13, 1944

PRUDENTIAL INS. CO. OF AMERICA
v.
MOORE ET AL.; MOORE V. MOORE.



Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; Wm. J. Campbell, Judge.

Author: Evans

Before EVANS, MAJOR, and KERNER, Circuit Judges.

EVANS, Circuit Judge.

This appeal is from a judgment which awarded appellee, Ionia Moore, the amount recoverable on two insurance policies written on the life of St. Clark Moore, who died August 14, 1942. The insurance company instituted this suit. It admitted liability on both policies and sought a judicial determination of which one of two claimants should receive the money. These two claimants were the widow of the insured, the appellant herein, who was named as beneficiary in both policies, and the mother of the insured, who bases her claim on an asserted change in the beneficiary made a few days before the insured died. The controverted issue is therefore restricted to an inquiry into the validity of the asserted change in beneficiary.

The District Court found that there was a valid, effective change of beneficiary made August 10, 1942.

The Facts. The insured held two policies in the Prudential Insurance Company, which were taken out June 18, 1942, through the Pullman Company, for which insured worked. He designated his wife, Julia, as beneficiary in both policies. He was shot by said Julia on August 6, 1942, and as a result thereof he died eight days later, on August 14, 1942. Appellant claims that her shooting of her husband was accidental. However, insured sought to change the beneficiary immediately thereafter. On August 10th, he signed the necessary application, aided by a representative of the Pullman Company, and sent it to the insurance company, which in turn made a certificate noting the change of beneficiary, which certificate bore date August 15, 1942 - one day subsequent to the death of the insured. The certificate and the policy were retained by the company.

It is thus apparent that our determination of this appeal turns upon our answer to the query, - Did the insured change his beneficiary before he died?

Appellant argues that he did not, and advances three reasons: (1) Undue influence had been brought to bear upon insured which caused him to make the attempted change. (2) The insured was of unsound mind at the time he executed the application for a change of beneficiary, and the signature was not his. (3) No certificate of change of beneficiary had been furnished by the insurance company before insured's death - a policy requirement to a valid change of beneficiary.

On the two factual issues, - undue influence and mental incapacity, the court, a jury having been waived, found that the signatures on the applications were those of the insured; that he was competent to make the change, and in the full possession of all his faculties; that he was under no duress or undue influence and "the act of making the change of beneficiary was deliberate and of his own volition."

It would be of no particular benefit to review all the testimony upon which these findings were made. The appellant stated that her husband realized and stated that her shooting of him was accidental, and that he retained his great affection for her, in spite of the careless gun play but was overpersuaded by others while he lay in the hospital, sick, weak, and delirious.

The extent of the conflict in the testimony is shown by the testimony of two doctors. One said:

"Q. Did you see St. Clark Moore on August 10 when you got there? A. I did.

"Q. Did you talk to him? A. No, he was delirious; he was unable to talk.

"Q. What did you say to him? A. I told him - I said, 'This is your doctor, Dr. Clemons.' ...


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