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John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Cohen

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
254 F.2d 417 (1958)


Facts

John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Insurance Company) (defendant) provided life insurance for the deceased. The deceased’s policy named Cohen (plaintiff) as a beneficiary. Under the terms of the insurance policy, Cohen was to be paid monthly installments for 20 years following the date that the policy was issued (1939), with a final lump sum payment of $5,000 at the end of 20 years. The deceased died in February 1945. The Insurance Company made monthly installment payments to Cohen for 15 years, and at the end of that time, delivered the final lump sum payment of $5,000 to Cohen. The Insurance Company refused to make any additional payments to Cohen. As ground for refusal, the Insurance Company argued that the policy was issued for 20 years by mistake and that both parties intended protection for Cohen for only 15 years. Cohen brought suit against the Insurance Company in federal district court seeking to recover the remaining balance due on the policy. The trial court held that the policy was not issued for 20 years by mistake, and required the Insurance Company to immediately pay Cohen the remaining amount that would be due on the policy in the future if the policy was carried out as agreed, plus the $5,000 lump sum. Total damages awarded to Cohen were $8,000. The Insurance Company appealed. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding that no mistake occurred in issuing the policy for 20 years. The appellate court then considered whether the Insurance Company anticipatorily breached

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Holding and Reasoning (Barnes, J.)

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