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Janus v. Tarasewicz

Illinois Appellate Court
482 N.E.2d 418 (1985)


Facts

Newlyweds Stanley and Theresa Janus died after ingesting Tylenol laced with cyanide. Stanley could not be resuscitated, and he was pronounced dead at the hospital at 8:15 p.m. on September 29, 1982. Efforts to resuscitate Theresa resulted in unstable vital signs, and she was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) and put on a respirator. Theresa showed signs of spontaneous circulatory function. However, tests performed on September 30, 1982 suggested that Theresa had suffered brain death.  Theresa was removed from life support and pronounced dead at 1:15 p.m. on October 1, 1982. Stanley had a $100,000 life insurance policy with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLIC) (defendant). MLIC determined that Theresa survived Stanley and paid $100,000 to the administrator of Theresa’s estate, Jan Tarasewicz (defendant). Aljoza Janus (plaintiff) was the contingent beneficiary under Stanley’s life insurance policy, which was payable to Aljoza only if Theresa predeceased Stanley. Aljoza brought a declaratory action, claiming that she was entitled to the $100,000 policy because there was insufficient evidence that both Theresa and Stanley had not suffered brain death by the time they arrived at the hospital. In that case, Stanley’s life insurance policy would be payable to Aljoza under Illinois’s version of the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act (SDA). Aljoza claimed Theresa’s life support was maintained at her family’s request. At trial, medical experts disagreed about the time Theresa’s brain death occurred. The trial court found sufficient evidence that Theresa survived Stanley but did not specify by how long. Aljoza and the administrator of Stanley’s estate appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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