Rees v. Jefferson Standard Life Insurance, 216 N.C. 428 (1939)

Nov. 1, 1939 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
216 N.C. 428


(Filed 1 November, 1939.)

1. Insurance § 30a—

Tbe nonpayment of a premium wben due, or within tbe period of grace thereafter, in the absence of some extension or waiver, automatically avoids a policy of insurance.

2. Insurance § 30d — Evidence held not to show disability waiving payment of premiums under the terms of the policy.

The provisions of a disability clause that payment of premiums should be waived upon due proof furnished insurer during the lifetime of insured of disability existing for six or more consecutive months, cannot be held a waiver of premiums when it appears that insured died less than six months after the inception of the disability claimed and that proof thereof was not furnished the company during the lifetime of insured.

*4293. Appeal and Error § 39d—

The exclusion of the death certificate of insured, offered for the purpose of showing the cause of death, held not reversible error, it not appearing whether the cause of death was stated therein as a fact or as an opinion, the certified copy of such record being prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein but not conclusions or opinions expressed therein, 0. S., 7111, and it further appearing that the cause of death was not perforce material.

Appeal by plaintiff from Bobbitt, J., at July Term, 1939, of LincolN. Civil action to recover on a policy of life insurance.

Upon receipt in advance of the first quarterly premium of $14.48, the defendant, on 14 January, 1938, issued to Henry E. Eees a $2,000 life insurance policy, payable to his wife, the plaintiff herein, as beneficiary.

The parties have agreed that the second quarterly premium due 14 April, 1938, was not paid; and that neither the insured nor anyone on his behalf ever furnished any notice or due proof of disability prior to insured’s death on 1 September, 1938, at the age of 39 years.

It is stipulated in the policy that “premiums or installments thereof” will be waived, if the company shall be furnished in the lifetime of the insured, prior to his reaching the age of 60, and during the period of disability, “with due proof that the insured has become totally disabled by bodily injuries or disease occurring or commencing subsequent to the issuance of this policy and while the policy is in full force and effect and that he has been continuously and wholly prevented thereby for six or more consecutive months from engaging in any occupation or employment whatsoever for remuneration or profit.”

It is in evidence that the insured was totally unable to work, or to carry on any business, from 8 April, 1938, until his death on 1 September following. It is further in evidence that the insured did work as a pharmacist continuously from November, 193$, until the latter part (after the middle) of March, 1938.

From judgment of nonsuit entered at the close of plaintiff’s evidence, she appeals, assigning errors.

M. T. Leatherman, G. T. Carswell, and Joe W. Ervin for plaintiff, appellant.

Smith, Wharton & Hudgins and Kemp B. Nixon for defendant, appellee.

Stacy, C. J.

It is generally understood that the nonpayment of a premium when due, or within the period of grace thereafter, in the absence of some extension or waiver, automatically avoids a policy of insurance. Allen v. Ins. Co., 215 N. C., 70, 1 (2d) S. E., 94. The *430parties seem to have assumed tbat tbe policy in suit was, by its terms, forfeited by tbe nonpayment of tbe quarterly premium due 14 April, 1938, unless waived, as tbe case bas been presented solely upon tbe question of waiver.

It is in evidence tbat tbe insured was totally unable to work, or to carry on any business, from 8 April, 1938, until bis death on 1 September, following. However, this disability was not continuous for “six or more consecutive months” and due proof thereof furnished tbe company “during tbe lifetime of tbe insured,” as required by tbe terms of tbe policy as a condition precedent to tbe waiver of premiums. Wyche v. Ins. Co., 207 N. C., 45, 175 S. E., 697. From 8 April to 1 September of tbe same year is less than six months. “It is not deemed relevant to discuss tbe meaning of tbe six months’ clause or for what reason it was inserted in tbe contract. It is there in plain English”- — Brogden, J., in Hundley v. Ins. Co., 205 N. C., 780, 172 S. E., 361.

Exception is also taken to tbe exclusion of tbe death certificate of tbe insured, offered for tbe purpose of showing tbat be died of “cancer of tbe esophagus.” Copy of the certificate is not in tbe record, and it does not appear whether tbe cause of death was stated therein as a fact oí-as an opinion. Tbe statute, C. S., 7111, provides tbat a properly certified copy of such record shall be admissible in all courts and places as prima facie evidence of tbe facts therein stated. It does not provide tbat opinions or conclusions expressed therein shall be prima facie proof of tbe fact to be determined upon tbe trial of such issue. Ins. Co. v. Brockman, 3 S. E. (2d), (Va.) 480. Moreover, tbe cause of insured’s death was not perforce material to tbe inquiry.

Tbe judgment of nonsuit would seem to be correct.