Willden v. Washington National Insurance Co.
California Supreme Court
18 Cal. 3d 631, 135 Cal. Rptr. 69, 557 P.2d 501 (1976)
Washington National Insurance Co. (Washington National) (defendant) issued an accident and disability insurance policy to Willden (plaintiff). The policy required Washington National to pay five years of disability benefits to Willden if Willden was injured in an accident, but only if Willden was totally and continuously disabled within 30 days of the accident. While the policy was in effect, Willden had an automobile accident. The day after the accident, Willden had leg tremors. Within two months of the accident, Willden’s leg was numb. About seven months after the accident, health-care providers diagnosed Willden’s leg numbness as multiple sclerosis. Willden submitted a claim to Washington National for the five-year disability benefit. Washington National paid one year of benefits under a different policy provision but declined to pay the five-year disability benefit. Willden then sued Washington National for the disability benefit, and the lawsuit went to a jury trial. Willden, acting in propria persona, presented an expert witness who testified that the automobile accident triggered Willden’s multiple sclerosis. The trial judge instructed the jury to render special verdicts on two factual issues: (1) whether the accident caused Willden’s disability; and (2) whether Willden was totally and continuously disabled within 30 days of the accident. The jury found that the accident caused Willden’s disability but that Willden was not totally and continuously disabled within 30 days of the accident. Based on these special verdicts, the trial judge entered judgment in favor of Washington National. Willden appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tobriner, J.)
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