Vokey v. Mutual Life, (1977) 15 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 16 (NFCA)

JudgeMorgan, J.A., Mifflin, C.J., and Noel, J.
CourtNewfoundland Court of Appeal
Case DateMay 05, 1977
JurisdictionNewfoundland and Labrador
Citations(1977), 15 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 16 (NFCA)

Vokey v. Mutual Life (1977), 15 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 16 (NFCA);

    38 A.P.R. 16

MLB headnote and full text

Vokey v. Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada

Indexed As: Vokey v. Mutual Life Assurance Co. of Canada

Newfoundland Supreme Court

Court of Appeal

Morgan, J.A., Mifflin, C.J., and Noel, J.

May 5, 1977.

Summary:

This case arose out of the action by a beneficiary under a life insurance policy for the proceeds of the policy. The deceased insured drove his vehicle off a wharf and drowned in circumstances which raised a suspicion of suicide. The insured had been worried and depressed over business difficulties and he drove straight off the wharf at the only possible place. The insurer refused to pay the proceeds to the beneficiary on the ground that the insured committed suicide. The beneficiary brought an action against the insurer for the proceeds. The Newfoundland Supreme Court, Trial Division, in a judgment reported 2 Newfoundland and P.E.I.R. 458 dismissed the action. The beneficiary appealed.

The Newfoundland Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and held that the insurer failed to discharge the burden of proof of suicide by the insured on the balance of probabilities. See paragraphs 16 to 29.

Morgan, J.A., dissenting, was of the opinion that suicide had been proved. See paragraphs 1 to 15.

The Newfoundland Court of Appeal dismissed the insurer's application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in a judgment reported 15 Nfld. and P.E.I.R. 27; 38 A.P.R. 27.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a motion for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on July 24, 1977. See 15 Nfld. and P.E.I.R. 29; 38 A.P.R. 29.

Insurance - Topic 7229

Life insurance - Defences - Suicide - Burden of proof - The deceased insured drove his vehicle off a wharf and drowned in circumstances which raised suspicion of suicide - The insured had been worried and depressed over business difficulties and he drove straight off the wharf at the only possible place - The Newfoundland Court of Appeal allowed the action by the insured's beneficiary for the proceeds of the life insurance policy on the insured's life - The Court of Appeal held that the insurer failed to discharge the burden of proof of suicide by the insured on a balance of the probabilities - See paragraphs 16 to 29.

Cases Noticed:

The London Life Insurance Company v. The Trustee of the Property of the Lang Shirt Company Limited, [1929] S.C.R. 117; [1929] 1 D.L.R. 328, consd. [para. 5].

Hanes v. The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, [1963] S.C.R. 154, appld. [para. 6].

The New York Life Insurance Company v. Schlitt, [1954] S.C.R. 289, appld. [para. 11].

Counsel:

Leo Barry, for the plaintiff-appellant;

William Wells, for the defendant-respondent.

This case was heard on November 3, 1976, at St. John's, Newfoundland, before MORGAN, J.A., MIFFLIN, C.J., and NOEL, J., of the Newfoundland Supreme Court, Court of Appeal.

On May 5, 1977, the judgment of the Court of Appeal was delivered and the following opinions were filed:

MORGAN, J.A., dissenting - see paragraphs 1 to 15;

NOEL, J. - see paragraphs 16 to 29.

MIFFLIN, C.J., concurred with NOEL, J.

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