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Opinion of the Court.
But the court excluded all the evidence so offered, declined to give any of the rulings asked for, and ruled "that if the answer to one of the interrogatories of question 28 was true, there would be no breach of the warranty; that the failure to answer the other interrogatories of question 28 was no breach of the contract; and that if the company took the defective application, it would be a waiver on their part of the answers to the other interrogatories of that question."
The jury having returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the full amount of the policy, the defendant's exceptions to the refusal to rule as requested and to the rulings aforesaid present the principal question in the case.
The rules of law which govern the decision of this question are well settled, and the only difficulty is in applying those rules to the facts before us.
Answers to questions propounded by the insurers in an application for insurance, unless they are clearly shown by the form of the contract to have been intended by both parties to be warranties, to be strictly and literally complied with, are to be construed as representations, as to which substantial truth in everything material to the risk is all that is required. of the applicant. Moulor v. American Ins. Co., 111 U. S. 335; Campbell v. New England Ins. Co., 98 Mass. 381; Thomson v. Weems, 9 App. Cas. 671.
The misrepresentation or concealment by the assured of any material fact entitles the insurers to avoid the policy. But the parties may by their contract make material a fact that would otherwise be immaterial, or make immaterial a fact that would otherwise be material. Whether there is other insurance on the same subject, and whether such insurance has been applied for and refused, are material facts, at least when statements regarding them are required by the insurers as part of the basis of the contract. Carpenter v. Providence Washington Ins. Co., 16 Pet. 495; Jeffries v. Life Ins. Co., 22 Wall. 47; Anderson v. Fitzgerald, 4 II. L. Cas. 484; Macdonald v. Law Union Ins. Co., L. R. 9 Q. B. 328; Edington v. Etna Life Ins. Co., 77 N. Y. 564, and 100 N. Y. 536.
Where an answer of the applicant to a direct question of
Opinion of the Court.
the insurers purports to be a complete answer to the question, any substantial misstatement or omission in the answer avoids a policy issued on the faith of the application. Cazenove v. British Equitable Assurance Co., 29 Law Journal (N. S.) C. P. 160, affirming S. C. 6 C. B. N. S. 437. But where upon the face of the application a question appears to be not answered at all, or to be imperfectly answered, and the insurers issue a policy without further inquiry, they waive the want or imperfection in the answer, and render the omission to answer more fully immaterial. Connecticut Ins. Co. v. Luchs, 108 U. S. 498; Hall v. People's Ins. Co., 6 Gray, 185; Lorillard Ins. Co. v. McCulloch, 21 Ohio St. 176; American Ins. Co. v. Mahone, 56 Mississippi, 180; Carson v. Jersey City Ins. Co., 14 Vroom, 300, and 15 Vroom, 210; Lebanon Ins. Co. v. Kepler, 106 Penn. St. 28.
The distinction between an answer apparently complete, but in fact incomplete and therefore untrue, and an answer manifestly incomplete, and as such accepted by the insurers, may be illustrated by two cases of fire insurance, which are governed by the same rules in this respect as cases of life insurIf one applying for insurance upon a building against fire is asked whether the property is incumbered, and for what amount, and in his answer discloses one mortgage, when in fact there are two, the policy issued thereon is avoided. Towne v. Fitchburg Ins. Co., 7 Allen, 51. But if to the same question he merely answers that the property is incumbered, without stating the amount of incumbrances, the issue of the policy without further inquiry is a waiver of the omission to state the amount. Nichols v. Fayette Ins. Co., 1 Allen, 63.
In the contract before us, the answers in the application are nowhere called warranties, or made part of the contract. In the policy those answers and the concluding paragraph of the application are referred to only as "the declarations or statements upon the faith of which this policy is issued;" and in the concluding paragraph of the application the answers are declared to be "fair and true answers to the foregoing questions," and to "form the basis of the contract for insurance." They must therefore be considered, not as warranties which
Opinion of the Court.
are part of the contract, but as representations collateral to the contract, and on which it is based.
The 28th printed question in the application consists of four successive interrogatories, as follows: "Has any application been made to this or any other company for assurance on the life of the party? If so, with what result? What amounts are now assured on the life of the party, and in what companies? If already assured in this company, state the number of policy." The only answer written opposite this question is "$10,000, Equitable Life Assurance Society."
The question being printed in very small type, the answer is written in a single line midway of the opposite space, evidently in order to prevent the ends of the letters from extending above or below that space; and its position with regard to that space, and to the several interrogatories combined in the question, does not appear to us to have any bearing upon the construction and effect of the answer.
But the four interrogatories grouped together in one question, and all relating to the subject of other insurance, would naturally be understood as all tending to one object, the ascertaining of the amount of such insurance. The answer in its form is responsive, not to the first and second interrogatories, but to the third interrogatory only, and fully and truly answers that interrogatory by stating the existing amount of prior insurance and in what company, and thus renders the fourth interrogatory irrelevant. If the insurers, after being thus truly and fully informed of the amount and the place of prior insurance, considered it material to know whether any unsuccessful applications had been made for additional insurance, they should either have repeated the first two interrogatories, or have put further questions. The legal effect of issuing a policy upon the answer as it stood was to waive their right of requiring further answers as to the particulars mentioned in the 28th question, to determine that it was immaterial, for the purposes of their contract, whether any unsuccessful applications had been made, and to estop them to set up the omission to disclose such applications as a ground for avoiding the policy. The insurers, having thus conclu
Opinion of the Court.
sively elected to treat that omission as immaterial, could not afterwards make it material by proving that it was intentional.
The case of London Assurance v. Mansel, 11 Ch. D. 363, on which the insurers relied at the argument, did not arise on a question including several interrogatories as to whether another application had been made, and with what result, and the amount of existing insurance, and in what company. But the application or proposal contained two separate questions; the first, whether a proposal had been made at any other office, and, if so, where; the second, whether it was accepted at the ordinary premium, or at an increased premium, or declined; and contained no third question or interrogatory as to the amount of existing insurance, and in what company. The single answer to both questions was, "Insured now in two offices for £16,000 at ordinary rates. Policies effected last year." There being no specific interrogatory as to the amount of existing insurance, that answer could apply only to the question whether a proposal had been made, or to the question whether it had been accepted, and at what rates, or declined; and as applied to either of those questions it was in fact, but not upon its face, incomplete and therefore untrue. As applied to the first question, it disclosed only some and not all of the proposals which had in fact been made; and as applied to the second question, it disclosed only the proposals which had been accepted, and not those which had been declined, though the question distinctly embraced both. That case is thus clearly distinguished in its facts from the case at bar. So much of the remarks of Sir George Jessel, M. R., in delivering judgment, as implies that an insurance company is not bound to look with the greatest attention at the answers of an applicant to the great number of questions framed by the company or its agents, and that the intentional omission of the insured to answer a question put to him is a concealment which will avoid a policy issued without further inquiry, can hardly be reconciled with the uniform current of American decisions.
For these reasons, our conclusion upon this branch of the case is that there was no error, of which the company had a
Opinion of the Court.
right to complain, either in the refusals to rule, or in the rulings made.
Another defence relied on at the trial was that after the issue of the policy Charles E. Raddin became, as to habits of using spirituous liquors, so far different from the condition he was represented to be in at the time of the application, as to make the risk more than ordinarily hazardous, and thus to render the policy null and void.
The bill of exceptions, after showing that in support of this defence the defendant introduced evidence, which it is now unnecessary to state, because the exception to its admission was abandoned at the argument, contains this statement: "In rebuttal of the foregoing defence of change of habits on the part of the assured after the issuing of the policy, the plaintiff not only denied the fact, but offered evidence tending to show that the defendant was informed of such change in habits prior to its receipt of the last premium, and that it gave no notice to Sewell Raddin of its intention to cancel the policy. Evidence to the contrary was introduced by the defendant; and the questions of change of habits, knowledge thereof by the company, notice to Sewell Raddin, receipt of premium after knowledge, and waiver, were all submitted to the jury."
The whole charge to the jury is made part of the bill of exceptions, in accordance with a practice which this court for more than half a century has emphatically condemned, and has by repeated decisions, as well as by express rule, constantly endeavored to suppress. As long ago as 1822, Mr. Justice Story, speaking for the whole court, said: "The charge is spread in extenso upon the record, a practice which is unnecessary and inconvenient, and may give rise to minute criticisms. and observations upon points incidentally introduced, for purposes of argument or illustration, and by no means essential to the merits of the case." Evans v. Eaton, 7 Wheat. 356, 426, 427. Opinions to the same effect have been delivered in many later cases. Carver v. Jackson, 4 Pet. 1, 80, 81; Er parte Crane, 5 Pet. 190; Conard v. Pacific Ins. Co., 6 Pet. 262, 280; Mag. niac v. Thompson, 7 Pet. 348, 390; Gregg v. Sayre, 8 Pet. 244, 251; Stimpson v. West Chester Co., 3 How. 553; Zeller v. Eck