Did the Insurance Company Continue Collecting Premiums After Death ?
X X purchased two cancer insurance policies in 1981 from Insurance company, for the benefit of herself and her mother, Ms. X. Shortly thereafter, X says, she requested that her insurance agent cancel those policies. X claims that the agent told her that the policies would be canceled.
X had other policies with Insurance company, so she was making a combined premium payment on all of her policies. Insurance company continued to collect premiums at her home on both cancer policies until 1994. In 1989, Ms. X died; Insurance company paid burial expenses under a burial policy.
Insurance company continued to collect premiums on the mother's cancer policy for five years after she had died. X also alleged that after a fire in 1994, X's daughter informed Insurance company that Ms. X had died and that Insurance company should not be collecting premium payments on her cancer policy.
Xalleged that Insurance company continued to collect on the cancer policy for two more months and also collected premiums for two more months on a fire insurance policy that had been terminated.
X sued Insurance company, seeking damages based on claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, suppression, and wantonness.
The jury found in favor of X, awarding her $ 625 in damages. It is not clear to me that the amount of damages awarded by the jury was inadequate to compensate X for the uncontroverted financial loss she sustained. As Judge Thompson points out in his dissenting opinion, three claims went to the jury and the jury returned a general verdict.
The evidence relating to one of the claims indicated actual monetary loss or damage of $ 1,219,92; the evidence relating to another indicated actual monetary loss or damage of $ 234; and the evidence relating to the third indicated actual monetary loss or damage of $ 11.08. X also claimed mental-anguish damages.
Thus, it could be that the jury found for X on the second and third claims and on those claims awarded her the amount of her actual monetary loss or damage and an additional amount for mental anguish, totaling altogether $ 625.
This Court is not required to assume that the jury's general verdict was a finding for X on all her claims. the amount of the damages award indicates that the jury did not accept all of X's claims.
I do not believe the amount of damages awarded is inconsistent with the general verdict for the plaintiff X. Thus, I think the trial court erred in ordering a new trial on the basis of an inconsistent verdict.
It appears to me that in affirming the order granting the plaintiff a new trial the Court of Civil Appeals based its judgment on a conclusion that the trial court had erred by allowing defense counsel, during opening arguments, to make comments about the defendant's size, without allowing X to rebut those comments.
However, Judge Thompson points out in his dissent that the trial court clearly stated its grounds for not granting Insurance company' "motion to reconsider" the new trial order:
The trial court stated, "The motion was denied based on this Court's conclusion that the damages awarded to X by the jury were inconsistent with the jury verdict in favor of X." So. 2d at.
Thus, the trial court apparently did not grant a new trial based on the comments regarding the size of the defendant Insurance company.
However, in her motion for a new trial, X did include a contention that the court had erred in allowing those comments, and the Court of Civil Appeals can affirm the trial court's order if it is correct on any valid ground or rationale. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the order granting a new trial was correct on any valid ground or rationale.
Furthermore, I do not think that the fact that the opening statement is not included in the record prevents this Court from addressing the issue.
X argues that when defense counsel said during the opening statement that Insurance company was a small company that was 78% owned by its employees, the defense "opened the door" to permit X to rebut this information by presenting evidence regarding Insurance company' net profits.
However, Judge Thompson's dissenting opinion states that X did not object to the trial court's ruling disallowing the evidence she wanted to present in rebuttal.
The trial court specifically stated that X could present evidence of the number of States in which Insurance company does business and that she could inquire into information regarding the stockholders and the amount of premiums Insurance company collected on the kind of policy at issue in this case.
However, X did not ask any questions on those issues allowed by the trial court. X did not take advantage of the trial court's ruling and attempt to develop evidence contradicting the opening statement made by Insurance company. Thus, I do not believe X is entitled to a new trial on this basis.
The Court of Civil Appeals determined that the plaintiff should have been permitted to rebut the information presented in the opening statement and, for that reason, affirmed the order granting her a new trial.
I agree with Judge Thompson that that was not a proper basis for granting a new trial. I further agree with Judge Thompson that the amount of damages awarded by the jury does not create an inconsistency that would support the order granting a new trial. I think this Court should review the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals. Therefore, I dissent from the order quashing the writ.