HANCOCK MUT. LIFE INS. CO. V. WARREN, 181 U. S. 73 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Warren, 181 U.S. 73 (1901)

Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Warren

No. 196

Argued and submitted March 19, 1901

Decided April 8, 1901

181 U.S. 73


Orient Insurance Co. v. Daggs, 172 U. S. 557; Waters-Pierce Co. v. Texas, 177 U. S. 28; New York Life Insurance Co. v. Cravens, 178 U. S. 389, approved and affirmed.

Section 3625 of the Revised Statutes of Ohio, dealing with the subject of answers to interrogatories in applications for policies of life insurance, applicable to all life insurance companies doing business in the Ohio, and in force at the time the policy of insurance sued on in this case was issued, was within the power of the state over corporations, and not in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

This action was brought in the Common Pleas Court of Delaware County, Ohio, on a policy of insurance issued September 27, 1895, by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company on the life of George E. Warren and for the benefit of William M. Warren. The insurance company resisted payment on the ground that the policy had been fraudulently obtained by the decedent in that the answers made by him in his application made a part of the policy, and which were expressly warranted to be complete and true, the policy providing that, if any of the statements were untrue it should be void, were false, and that he made them for the purpose of defrauding the insurance company, which would not have issued the policy had it known of the falsity of the answers.

Section 3625 of the Revised Statutes of Ohio provided that:

"No answer to any interrogatory made by an applicant, in his or her clearly proved that such answer is willfully recover upon any policy issued upon such application, or be used in evidence upon any trial to recover upon such policy, unless it be clearly proved that such answer is willfully false and was fraudulently made, that it is material, and induced the company to issue the policy, and that but for such answer, the policy would

Page 181 U. S. 74

not have been issued, and, moreover, that the agent of the company had no knowledge of the falsity or fraud of such answer."

Rev.Stat. Ohio, 1898, p. 1900.

The trial judge charged the jury as follows:

"This law, being in force at the time this policy of insurance was taken out, is applicable to the policy of insurance involved in this case. And is applicable to the questions and answers in the application that by the terms of the policy are made express warranties, as well as those that are not."

The defendant duly excepted to that portion of the charge and to other portions of the same purport. The defendant also requested the court to give the jury the following instruction:

"The policy or contract upon which this action is based, and the application made by George E. Warren for the same, constitute a warranty that all answers by said Warren contained therein are true, and if any one or more of said answers is untrue, though made without actual fraud, and under an innocent misapprehension of the purport of the questions and answers, no contract of insurance is thereby made, and the contract is void ab initio, and your verdict will be for the defendant."

The court declined to give this instruction, and defendant duly excepted.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, and judgment was entered thereon which was affirmed by the circuit court, and finally by the Supreme Court of Ohio. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Warren, 59 Ohio St. 45.


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