Life Insurance Policy – When Does It End

Life Insurance Lawyers know that just as there may be disputes whether coverage took effect before the insured died, there may also be disagreements over whether coverage terminated before the insured’s death.  This is illustrated in a 1979, Fort Worth Court of Appeals opinion styled, Leach v. Eureka Life Ins. Co. of America.

This case is an appeal from a court ruling against Leach after she filed suit against Eureka.  The life insurance policy at issue was a Credit Life Insurance policy.  The policy was to pay the remaining balance of a loan in the event the insured died before the loan was paid or September 13, 1977.  The insured, Tommy Leach, was killed in a car accident at or around September 13, 1977.  There were no witnesses.  The death certificate for Tommy Leach shows the time of injury and death as 12:45 a.m., September 14, 1977.

The insurance company alleged that Leach was killed September 14, 1977.

Mrs Leach alleges the death occurred before midnight September 13, 1977.  In her brief she states that the issues to be decided on appeal are whether the term of insurance was six months, with an expiration date of September 16, 1977, or, whether the term of insurance and the due date of the promissory note should be determined by Central Standard Time, the time system in effect when the promissory note was executed and the insurance certificate was issued.

Here, the Court stated Leach has brought forward a statement of facts but we still presume on appeal that the trial judge found every issuable fact proposition necessary to sustain the judgment if such was raised by the pleadings and supported by the evidence.  In determining whether there is any evidence to support the judgment and the implied findings of fact, we consider only the evidence favorable to the implied findings and disregard any contrary evidence.

Since we must presume the trial court found facts which support its judgment, we presume it found that the termination date of the policy was September 13, 1977.  Upon reviewing the record we find that the promissory note executed by Leach clearly shows a due date of September 13, 1977.  The insurance certificate stated on its face that coverage terminated September 13, 1977 and “in no event” shall the coverage be continued past the indebtedness due date.  It also provided that the amount to be paid was the debtor’s “then indebtedness” but that this did not include any past due principal or interest payments.

There were no allegations of fraud, accident or mistake here so the parties are bound by the express terms of the policy.  The evidence supports the trial court’s implied finding that coverage ended September 13, 1977.  Therefore, the date of Leach’s death is not only material but the ultimate fact issue in this case.

We presume the trial court found that Leach died September 14, 1977.  Although Mrs. Leach has no point of error specifically attacking this implied finding, her argument, liberally construed, does complain about the effect given this finding.  She contends the termination date of the insurance certificate and the past due date of the note should be determined by Central Standard Time, the time system in effect when the parties entered into the insurance contract and Leach executed the promissory note.

She reasons that her husband was undeniably dead prior to 1:00 a. m., Central Daylight Time, September 14, 1977.  The time of death would have been prior to 12:00 midnight Central Standard Time, September 13, 1977, had not Daylight Saving Time intervened.  She alleges that the promissory note contemplated 180 full twenty-four hour days and to allow Daylight Saving Time to determine the alleged termination date of the insurance contract means that one hour out of a twenty-four hour day was lost sometime between March 17 and September 13, 1977.  She argues that it is a universal principle of law that when it concerns a legal duty, time must be computed by a certain, unvarying and uniform standard, and to allow Daylight Saving Time to intervene after a contract has been entered into violates this standard.

There was a fact issue as to the time of Leach’s death and there was evidence in the record enabling the trial judge to decide that question in defendants’ favor.  In addition to the death certificate showing the time of injury and death to be 12:45 a. m., September 14, 1977, the court also had before it the accident report received by the Bowie, Texas, police department about the incident.  It shows that a truck driver advised the department of a major accident at 12:20 a. m., September 14, 1977.

It was stipulated that the clock in Leach’s vehicle stopped at 12:07 a. m.  An engineering report made for plaintiff was entered into evidence by defendants.  It stated that tests showed that the clock lost approximately six minutes in a twenty-four hour period and that it would run an average of 94.2 seconds after removal of power.

The evidence supports the trial judge’s implied findings that Leach died September 14, 1977, and that the parties contracted in contemplation of the time change caused by Daylight Saving Time.

The ruling against Leach was confirmed by this appeals court.

Contact Information