CRANDAL V. ACCIDENT INS. CO.
policy of insurance, by which it promised to pay to the plaintiff, who was the wife of the- insured, the sum of $10,000, within 80 days after sufficient proof that the insured, at any time within the continuance of the policy, had sustained bodily injuries, effected through external, accidental, and violent means, within the intent and meaning of the contract, and the conditions thereunto annexed, and such injuries alone had occasioned death within 90 days from the happening thereof. It was provided in the policy that the insurance should not extend to death or disability "which may have been caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or disease." Further, that no claim should be made under the policy if the death or inj ury should be . caused by suicide or self-inflicted injuries. While this policy was in force, the insured, Edward M. Orandal, took his own life by hanging, and the jury to whom the case was submitted for a special verdict on the facts, has found that at the time: of the act of self-destruction he was insaDY. The question reserved' for consideration by the court, and now to be determined, is whether the death was one covered by the policy. The question of liability,' as it here arises, upon an accident policy of insurance, seems to be one of first impression. Unaided by direct authority, the 'court iff called on to determine, first, whether, under such a policy as this, death from self-destruction, occurring when the insured is insane, may be said to have been caused by bodily injuries effected through accidental means. This question, it will be understood, is here to be considered quite independently of the question whether disease or, physical infirmity was a promoting cause of death. The verdict of the jury was unquestionably right. The case was one in which the evidence clearly established the fact of insanity. The symptoms of a disordered mind were manifested in the counte" nance, conduct, and conversation of the insured. He was sleepless, was sometimes unduly excited, then nnnaturally depressed. He suf-, fered to such an extent from melancholy that he abandoned his accustomed habits and pursuits. Fondness for family and friends changed to indifference; and, in short, his reasoning powers and self-control appear to have been prostrated by the fear of want and by morbid impulses and delusions, such as, in this 'species of insanity, impel to self-destruction. Upon the facts shown, the jury might well find that his judgment, his volition, his will, were overthrown, so that, in the language of Mr. Justice NELSON, when chief justice of New York, in the case of Breasted v. Loan It Trust Co., 4 Hill, 78, 75, the act of suicide "was no more his act, in the sense of the law, than if he had been impelled by irresistible physical power." Upon the verdict and the facts which sustain it, it may then be assumed that when the deceased took his life it was not his voluntary, rational act. He could not exercise his natural powers of tion, and thereby control his judgment upon the act he was about to commit. The physical violence, therefore, which terminated his life
was the same as if it had come upon him from sources outside of himself, and for which he was not responsible.' It was force emanating, not from the brain and hand of Edward M. Crandal, as a responsible, voluntary agent, but force which was uncontrollable, so far as he was concerned. The means employed to produce death were external and violent. Were they not also, in a just and true sense, accidental, if the deceased was so far bereft of his reasoning faculties that his act was not the result of his will, or of a voluntarv operation of his mind? If, in consequence of his condition of irr; sponsibility, the violence which he inflicted upon himself was the same as if it had operated upon him from without, then why was not the death an accident within the definition of that term as giver: by Bouvier, namely: "An event which, under the circumstances, ill unusual and unexpected by the person to whom it happens; the happening of an event without the concurrence of the will of the person whose agency it was caused J" No case has been cited where the question, as here presented, was directly in judgment, but there are dicta which afford some aid ir. reaching a conclusion. In 7 Amer. Law Rev. 587, 588, various definitions of an accident, as the term is used in insurance policies, ar(o. given, namely:. "An accident is 'any event which takes place without the oversight or expectation of the person .acted upon or affected uy the event.' Ripley v. Railway Passengers' Assltr. Co., 2 Bigelow, Cas. 758; Providence Life Ins. Co. v. Martin, 32 Md. 310. It is · any unexpected event which happens as by chance, or which does not take place according to the usual course of things.' North American Ins. Co. v. Burroughs, 69 Pat St. 43. 'It is something which take.s place without any intelligent or apparent cause; without design, and out o/course.' Mallory v. Travelers' Ins 00., 47 N. Y. 52. ·Some violence, casualty, or vis major is necessarily involved' in the term accident. It means, in short, in insurance policies, an injury which happens by reason of some violence, casualty, or vis mfljor to the assured, without his design or consent, or voluntary co-operation." Similar .definitions are given by Mr. Justice PAINE in his discussion of the question in Schneider v. Insurance Co., 24 Wis. 30. In Scheiderer V. Inwrance Co., 58 Wis. 14, S. C. 16 N. W. Rep. 47, it was alleged in the pleading tbat while the insured, who was traveling in a railway car, "was in a dozed and unconscious condition of mind, alld not knowing or realizing what he was doing," be inl'Oluntarily arose from his seat, and walked unconsciously to the platform of the car, aud fell therefrom to the ground; and it was beld that this constituted a good cause of action upon a policy of accident insurance. Here, it is true, the injury resulted from falling from the car; but since the moving cause was the involuntary act of leaving the seat and walking to the platform, the case suggests the inquiry, if, for example, a person in It fit of somnambulism, or in delirium, not knowing or realizing what he is doing, involuntarily inflicts injury opon himself,-that is, by means of his own band,-and death en·
CRANDAL fl. ACCIDENT INS. CO.
sues, is not such an injury as much the result of accident as if, in ' the same circumstances, the injury results from other external forces, such as falling from the platform of a moving train? In Hill v. Insurance Co., 22 Hun, 189, the insured took poison by mistake, and died suddenly. The court said that death occurred through accidental means. The taking of the poison was not the reo sult of the will or intention of the person, and vas therefore not his voluntary act. It was adjudged, however, that the plaintiff could not recover, on the ground that the policy contained a clause that the company should not be liable if death should be caused by taking poison; and this clause was held to exempt the company from liability, whether the poison was taken intentionally or by mistake. In Pierce v. Travelers' Ins. Co., 34 Wis. 395, Mr. Chief Justice DIXON, speaking for the court, in interpreting the clause in the policy in question in that case, referred to instances of death resulting from an act committed under the influence of delirium,-as if the person should, in a paroxysm of fever, prelJipitate himself from a window, or, having been bled. remove the bandages, or should take poison by mistake,-and observed that deaths thus produced "are more properly denominated deaths by accident than deaths by suicide. - - *' Deaths so caused are held to be deaths by accident, within the meaning and purpose of policies of insurance against accident; as where a man negligently draws a loaded gun towards him by the muzzle, or the servant fills the lighted lamp with kerosene, and the gun is discharged and the lamp explodes." In Horn v. Life Ins. Co., 7 Jur. (N. S.) 673, the court, in passinR upon the question whether a policy of insurance upon life is rendered void by the suicide of the insured when insane, speaks of such a death as just as much an accident as if the insured had fallen from the top of a house. In Breasted v Farmers' L. &: T. Co., 8 N. Y. 306, it was observed by the court that "a death by accident, and a death by the party's own hand, when deprived of reason, stand, on principle, in the same category. In both cases the act is done without a controlling mind." To maintain the position that because his own hand constituted the violent means employed by the insured in taking his life, those means were not external and accidental, it is necessary to take a distinction between force emanating from the insane person himself and force operating independently from without. I can hardly think there is ground for such a distinction. The injury and the death seem equally fortuitous in both cases, for in neither case is there a concurring will which prompts the act. An insane man burns his own insured property. The insurer is nevertheless liable for the loss unless its contract expressly exempts it from liability, even in case of such a burning; this for the reason that the act was not voluntary, or done with the assent, procurement, or design of the assured as a
J;'ational person. Karow v. Oontinental Ins. 00., 57 Wis. 56; S. C. 15 N. W. Rep. 27. Although, in the darkness that enveloped his mind, the hand of Edward M. Crandal adjusted the fatal noose, the act was no more attributable to his voluntary agency than if, as a sane man walking the street in the darkness of night, the same fatality, without co-operation on his part, or even consciousness of danger, had overtaken him. Therefore it would seem that, in the one case as in the other, the death would be attributable to casuaHy. Additional force is given to this view of the question when we consider that in cases arising upon life insurance policies, decided by the supreme court of the United States, it has been repeatedly held that if the insured, while in the possession of his ordinary reasoning faculties, from any motive intentionally takes his own life, such death is within the proviso on the subject of suicide, and the insurer is not liable. On the contrary, if the insured takes his life when insane, then the death cannot be' said to be "by his own hand," and the insurel' is liable. And so it would seem to follow that as in the latter instance the act of self-destruction is not the act of the party, it must be regarded, in a case like the present, as brought about by means which are accidental, because not the result of the concurring will of the insured. It is to be further observed that in the policy in suit the company declares that it incurs no liability in case of death from suicide or self-inflicted injuries. Thus, it appears that the insurer took into consideration the possibility that the insured might voluntarily, and with deliberate intent,-that is, as a sane person,-take his life, and in such case the death was not to be regarded as covered by the contract, because not effected by accidental means. This is the import of this clause in the policy. But no provision is made against suicide when insane; and this also adds force to the view that the contract is fairly open to the construction contended for by the plaintiff. By the term "self-inflicted injuries," as used in the policy, was not meant injuries inflicted by the insured upon himself when insane, but injuries, self-inflicted, when capable of rational, VOluntary action. Several cases have been cited by counsel for the defendant. Among them is Harris v. Travelers' Ins. 00., decided by the superior court of Chicago in 1868, and referred to in 7 Amer. Law. Rev. 589; but the point here involved does not seem to have been there raised. The deceased was a fireman, who was accidentally buried under a falling wall, but was soon rescued without apparent injury, and continued his work for three months, when he took poison. In a suit to recover the insurance on the ground that the accident rendered him insane, it was held that if he was insane on account of the accident, the death was too remote to be covered by the policy, which included only proximate results. It would seem that the plaintiff relied upon the original accident as a ground of recovery, and that
ACCIDENT INS. CO.
was held too remote.
Another case cited is Pollock v. United States Mut. Accident Ass'n, 28 Alb. Law J. 518; but all that was decided
in that case was that the defendant was not liable for a death by poison, because the contract so expressly provided; and in view of that provision, it made no difference whether the poison was innocently or intentionally taken. There was no question of insanity involved, and, moreover, the death was not caused by "external violence," and this was one of the prerequisites to recover, as fixed in the contract. In Bayless v. Travelers' Ins. 00., 14 Blatchf. 144, the question of insanity did not arise, and it is on the same line, in principle, with Pollock v. United States Mut. Accident Ass'n, supra. On the whole, my conclusion is that the death of the insured, Edward M. Crandal, resulted from bodily ir.juries effected through external, accidental, and violent means, within the meaning of the policy in suit. Second. Still another and equally interesting question remains to be determined. The contention of the defendant is that the death in this case was caused by bodily infirmities or disease, namely, the insanity of the insured, and therefore that the plaintiff cannot recover, As has been observed, the policy provides that the company shall not be liable if the death he "caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or disease." The policy further recites that it is issued in consideration of the warranties made in the application for insurance, and of the premium paid; and in the application signed by the inBured he makes certain statements of fact, usual in such cases, the last of which, numbered 15, is as follows:
"I am aware that this insurance will not extend to * * * any bodily injury happening directly or indirectly in consequence of disease; nor to deatl. ()r disability causeu Wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or by disease;. * * It nor to any cast', except when the accidental injury shall be the proximate and sole cause of disability or death."
This is not a warranty of any fact. It is, in effect, merely an admission of knowledge on the part of the insured of such limitations of liability as may be declared in the policy. As, therefore, it is to the policy we must look for those limitations, it is observable that the policy does not declare that the insurance shall not extend to any bodily injury" happening directly or indirectly in consequence of disease;" but only that it shall not extend "to death or disability which may have been caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or disease." This, then, is the limitation of liability to be considered, as it is expressed in the policy issued and delivered subsequently to the application for insurance, rather than the statements on the subject contained in the application. The fifteenth clause in the application is not referred to in the policy. Wherein, therefore, it differs from the written contract it is no part of the contract. The argument of counsel for the defendant is, in brief, that insanity is a bodily infirmity or disease; that in ordinary life insur-
ance cases it is regarded and characterized by the courts as a disease, and therefore it is that insurance companies are held liable in cases of suicide when the insured was insane; further, that in the case in hand the act of self-destruction was occasioned by the insanity, and so, that within the meaning of the policy, the death was caused by disease. I was much impressed with the force of this argument, and if I may use the language of DENMAN, J., in a case hereafter referred to, "but for Winspear v. Accident Ins. Co., 6 Q. B. Div. 42, I am not sure but that I should have thought the company were protected." It is true that in cases upon life policies death by an insane suicide is regarded by the courts as death by disease. As it is expressed in Eastabrook v. Union Mut. Life Ins. Co., 54 Me. 224, "death by disease is provided for by the policy. Insanity is a disease. Death which is the result of insanity is death by disease." It is to be borne in mind, however, that these and similar observations are made in a class of cases where the insurance is not special but general, and where the protection which it is intended to afford covers all diseases and disorders-other than those which may be specially excepted -which result in death. In the case of a life policy, it may not matter whether the disease of insanity or the particular act of selfdestruction be regarded as the immediate cause of death. It is the life which is insured, and liability arises when death occurs, unless the death is within one of the specially excepted cases enumerated in the policy. The fact, therefore, that in such cases it is said that death which is the result of insanity is death by disease does not reach the question we have here, which is, what, under the provisions of a policy which covers accidents only, was the cause of death? In the sense of the clauses on the subject in this policy, was the death caused by disease, or by the act of violence in question? Although the words of the policy are, "caused wholly or in part by bodily infirmities or disease," I suppose the true inquiry is, what was the actual, proximate cause of death? For, in law, there is but one cause. That ill the proximate cause, which may either directly or indirectly produce the result. If the death was caused in part by disease, the disease must have been a proximate cause of death. "One of the most valuable crite'ria furnished us by the authorities," says Mr. Justice MILLER, in Insurance CO'. v. Tweed, 7 Wall. 44, "is to ascertain whether any new cause has intervened between the fact accomplished and the alleged cause. If a new force or power has intervened, of itself sufficient to stand as the cause of the misfortune, the other must be considered as 1.00 remote." In Insurance Co. v. Transportation Co., 12 Wa11199, it was said by Mr. Justice
"There is undoubtedly difficulty in many cases attending the application of the m,ixim, proxima causa non remota spectatur, but none when the causes succeed each other in order of t.ime. In such cases the rule is plain.