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Burne v. Franklin Life Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
301 A.2d 799 (1973)


Facts

Burne (plaintiff) is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy purchased by her husband (the decedent) from Franklin Life Insurance Co. (Franklin) (defendant). In 1949, the decedent purchased a $15,000 life insurance policy from Franklin. The terms of the policy provided that an extra $15,000 would be paid to Burne in the event that the decedent’s death was purely accidental. The policy stated that this extra $15,000 would be payable to Burne if the decedent died within 90 days of an accident. On January 30, 1959, the decedent was struck and severely injured by an automobile. From the moment of the accident until his death, the decedent was only able to live through the use of life support machines. Burne chose to keep the decedent alive through the use of life support for four and a half years. After this time, the decedent died. Burne and Franklin did not dispute that the decedent ultimately died as a result of his injuries, or that the injuries were purely accidental as a result of the decedent being struck by an automobile. Franklin refused, however, to pay Burne the additional $15,000 because the decedent did not die within 90 days as required by the terms of the insurance policy. Burne brought suit in Pennsylvania state court seeking to enforce the additional accidental death benefits clause of the decedent’s insurance policy. The trial court held for Franklin, and Burne appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Roberts, J.)

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Dissent (Pomeroy, J.)

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