Slayer Statute And Self Defense

Fort Worth life insurance lawyers know that the Texas Slayer Statute is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1103.151. It says “A beneficiary of a life insurance policy or contract forfeits the beneficiary’s interest in the policy or contract if the beneficiary is a principle or an accomplice in wilfully fringing about the death of the insured.”
The self defense arguement related to this statute is discussed in a 1977, Texas Supreme Court opinion styled, Bounds v. Caudle.
Dr. Bounds was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy on his wife. He was later arrested and convicted of negligent homicide.
Here the testimony of Dr. Bounds is that when he and Mrs. Bounds arrived home the argument which had begun at the dinner club was continuing and that when he came out of the bathroom, she was standing in the bedroom pointing the revolver at him. He further testified that he was able to grab the gun and, while struggling with her for possession of the gun, she was shot.
He testified:
I told you I don’t know where my hands were at the time that we were scuffling over the gun. I know I had at least one hand on the gun, because that’s what I was trying to control, the gun, because I didn’t want to get shot. I didn’t want her to get shot, but it happened anyway.
Q You said you were going to be able to handle him (sic). You pulled the gun around this way.
A I told you I grabbed the gun and diverted it away from me. You’re doing this. I’m not doing that.
Q You were pointing the gun at her?
A I was getting it away from me. That was my main . . .
Q Getting it away from you?
A Yes.
Q And it went towards her?
A It did when it went over.
Q Were you trying to discharge the gun in her direction?
A I was trying to protect myself.
This evidence, although refuted and rebutted by circumstantial evidence, clearly is some evidence that Mrs. Bounds was shot during the scuffle which ensued when Dr. Bounds undertook to disarm her in order to keep from being shot. This testimony raises the issue of self-defense as well as that of accidental death. We do not find the two defenses inconsistent under the facts in this case. The submission of both have been upheld in criminal cases under somewhat similar facts.
We are required to apply the “no evidence” test in determining whether the requested instruction was required to be submitted to the jury. As a result, we must consider only the evidence and the inferences that may be reasonably drawn therefrom which are favorable to Dr. Bounds’ contention that he was acting in self-defense, and to disregard all of the evidence and inferences to the contrary. Under this test, the testimony of Dr. Bounds does raise the issue that he was acting in self-defense at the time that Mrs. Bounds was shot and killed. Furthermore, the issue was properly raised by his trial amendment and was timely requested by him in his instruction to be given with Special Issue No. 3. The trial court therefore erred in refusing to give this instruction. This error mandates a reversal of the judgment and remand for a new trial.
This case shows us that even though a beneficiary under a life insurance policy intentionally killed the insured, that if it was done in self defense, the policy proceeds are not forfeited.