Sunday, December 1, 2013

John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Cohen case brief

John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Cohen case brief summary
254 F.2d 417 (1958)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant insurance company appealed a judgment of a United States district court, which held in favor of plaintiff beneficiary upon finding that defendant breached its contract to provide life insurance to plaintiff's husband. Plaintiff cross-appealed the portion of the district court's judgment that refused to award damages for breach of an alleged warranty against having to employ any firm or persons to collect on the contract.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff beneficiary filed suit against defendant insurance company for breach of a contract to provide life insurance to plaintiff's husband and breach of warranty against having to employ anyone to collect on the contract. The district court held in favor of plaintiff regarding breach of contract, but not regarding breach of warranty.

DISCUSSION

  • The court remanded the decision with directions to award plaintiff an amount equal to payments due to the date of judgment plus interest and to decree that future installments were to be paid when they fell due. 
  • The court held that the alleged prior agreement was not controlling over the erroneous terms embodied in the subsequent policy because no agreement was reached until the final policy was written. 
  • The court found that there was a unilateral mistake of defendant and that plaintiff's husband neither knew or reasonably should have known of the mistake. 
  • The court held that defendant had a duty to read the policy. 
  • The court held that the contract was a "payment certain" insurance contract and an unconditional unilateral contract for the payment of money in future installments. 
  • The doctrine of anticipatory breach did not apply.

CONCLUSION
The court remanded the district court's judgment that held in favor of plaintiff beneficiary that defendant insurance company breached a contract to provide life insurance to plaintiff's husband. The court held that defendant breached its contract, but that anticipatory breach was not applicable because the contract involved the payment of future installments. The court found no warranty against having to employ anyone to collect on the contract.


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