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Flood v. Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co.

Louisiana Court of Appeal
394 So. 2d 1311 (1981)


Facts

Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Company (Fidelity) (defendant) refused to pay the proceeds of a life-insurance policy to the estate of Richard Flood (plaintiff). The life-insurance policy had been purchased via an application purportedly signed by Richard Flood. Later that year, Fidelity had received a form, also purportedly signed by Mr. Flood, changing the ownership of the policy to his wife, Ellen Flood. The following year, Mrs. Flood murdered Mr. Flood and was subsequently convicted. When Mrs. Flood requested payment based on the insurance policy, Fidelity denied the request due to the murder charges and returned all premiums to Mrs. Flood. Mr. Flood’s estate demanded payment for either the estate itself or the Floods’ minor child. Fidelity denied the claim, arguing that Mrs. Flood had, through forgery, fraudulently obtained the policy. Mr. Flood’s estate filed suit against Fidelity. At trial, Fidelity’s agent testified to witnessing Mr. Flood’s signature on the paperwork because Mrs. Flood had said it was his signature, although the agent had not in fact seen Mr. Flood sign the paperwork. Fidelity also called an expert witness who testified that the handwriting on the insurance application and change-of-ownership form did not match Mr. Flood’s handwriting. Further, Fidelity introduced the Supreme Court of Louisiana’s ruling in the murder case against Mrs. Flood, which noted that Mrs. Flood had inquired with an insurance agency as to whether she could purchase a $100,000 policy on her husband without his knowledge, and learned she could not. Nevertheless, the trial court ruled in favor of Mr. Flood’s estate, finding a lack of direct proof that Mr. Flood had not known about the Fidelity policy or that Mrs. Flood had intended to murder her husband for the insurance money when she obtained the policy. Fidelity appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Lear, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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