Flood v. Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co. FACTS Ellen

Flood v. Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co. FACTS Ellen and Richard Alvin Flood, who were married in 1965, lived in a mobile home in Louisiana. Richard worked as a maintenance man and Ellen was employed at an insurance agency. Evidence at trial showed that Ellen was unhappy with her marriage. Ellen took out a life insurance policy on the life of her husband and named herself as beneficiary. The policy was issued by Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co. (Fidelity). In June 1972, Richard became unexpectedly ill. He was taken to the hospital, where his condition improved. After a visit at the hospital from his wife, Richard died. Ellen was criminally charged with the murder of her husband by poisoning. Evidence showed that six medicine bottles at the couple’s home, including Tylenol and paregoric bottles, contained arsenic. The court found that Ellen had fed Richard ice cubes laced with arsenic at the hospital. Ellen was tried and convicted of the murder of her husband. As beneficiary of Richard’s life insurance policy, Ellen requested Fidelity to pay her the benefits. Fidelity refused to pay the benefits and returned all premiums paid on the policy. This suit followed. The district court held in favour of Ellen Flood and awarded her the benefits of the life Insurance Policy. Fidelity appealed. ISSUE Was the life insurance policy an illegal contract that is void ? COURT’S REASONING Louisiana follows the majority rule that holds, as a matter of public policy, that a beneficiary named in a life insurance policy is not entitled to the proceeds of the insurance if the beneficiary feloniously kills the insured. Applying this rule, the appellate court held that Ellen Flood could not recover the life insurance benefits from the policy she had taken out on her husband’s life. The court stated: “Life insurance policies are procured because life is, indeed, precarious and uncertain. Our law does not and cannot sanction any scheme which has as its purpose the certain infliction of death for, inter alia, financial gain through receipt of the proceeds of life insurance. To sanction this policy in any way would surely shackle the spirit of the letter and life of our laws.” DECISION AND REMEDY The appellate court held that the life insurance policy that Ellen Flood had taken out on the lifer of her husband was void based on public policy. Reversed.

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