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New York Life Insurance Co. v. McNeely
Arizona Supreme Court
79 P.2d 948 (1938)
Lillian McNeely (Lillian) (plaintiff), the widow of Howard B. McNeely (Howard), sued the New York Life Insurance Company (defendant) to recover double indemnity benefits under a life-insurance policy on Howard’s life. Double indemnity benefits were payable only if the death was caused by external violent and accidental means. At trial, New York Life proffered two letters and a will that were in Howard’s handwriting and were found in his pockets, but the trial court excluded them. Direct evidence was presented that Howard’s car was found run off the road with the left front wheel and front axle bent and a damaged fender, that sometime between 24 and 48 hours later Howard’s body was found about 200 feet from his car, that Howard’s body was decomposing and showed some discoloration on his hand and the back of his head, that some blood and froth was observed coming from Howard’s nose and mouth, and that flies and maggots were observed when his body was found. There were no marks of bodily injury nor of violent death. Circumstantial evidence about the cause of Howard’s death was admitted that required inference upon inference to get to the conclusion that Howard’s death was the result of external violent and accidental means. The jury returned a verdict for Lillian, and New York Life appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lockwood, J.)
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