Insanity And Life Insurance

Life insurance attorneys in Texas won’t run across this situation very often but if they do here is a case for guidance. The San Antonio Court of Appeals issued an opinion in 1964, dealing with the issue of whether or not a beneficiary is excluded from recovery of the life insurance benefits when the beneficiary killed the insured but was insane at the time they took the life of the insured. The case is styled Simon v. Dibble.
This suit presents the question of whether or not an insane husband who shoots and kills his wife, may receive the proceeds of insurance policies taken out by her with him as beneficiary, and whether or not he may inherit her share of the community property. On November 12, 1962, Orlando V. Dibble, Jr., while insane, shot and killed his wife, Sabina Julia Dibble. She left two insurance policies in which he was the beneficiary, and the insurance companies have paid into court the proceeds of these policies with the request that the court determine who should receive them. Article 21.23 of the Insurance Code, V.A.T.S., (today it is Texas Insurance Code, Section 1103.151) reads as follows:
The interest of a beneficiary in a life insurance policy or contract heretofore or hereafter issued shall be forfeited when the beneficiary is the principal or an accomplice in willfully bringing about the death of the insured. When such is the case, the nearest relative of the insured shall receive said insurance.
It is quite clear that under the provisions of this Article the husband who has willfully killed his wife cannot receive the proceeds of an insurance policy taken out by her with him as the beneficiary. However, a different situation is presented here. The husband is insane, and therefore not capable of willfully taking the life of his wife. Orlando V. Dibble, Jr., was tried for the murder of his wife, and was acquitted upon the ground that he was insane at the time he did so. Further, the parties here have stipulated that Dibble was insane at the time he killed his wife.
We find no case in this State passing directly upon the question, but there are authorities from other jurisdictions which we feel should be controlling on this question.
Appellants cite an Illinois case, but that case is not in point and is distinguishable from the case at bar because there was a wrongful death, and there was an action for damages in tort. While an insane person may be held responsible in damages for a wrongful tort, this is quite different from denying an insane killer the right to inherit from his wife, whom he has killed while insane.
The husband was the sole beneficiary under the will of his wife, but had there been no will, he would have been the sole heir of her property, so it makes no difference here whether her estate passes under her will or by the law of descent it goes to her husband.
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.