Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Janus v. Tarasewicz case brief

Janus v. Tarasewicz case brief summary
135 Ill. App. 3d 936

SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff mother filed an action against defendants, father, insurer, and administrator, claiming entitlement to the proceeds of her son's life insurance policy. The Circuit Court of Cook County (Illinois) conducted a nonjury trial and thereafter entered a judgment in favor of the father. The mother and the administrator appealed.

OVERVIEW: The mother's son and the father's daughter, who were husband and wife, ingested cyanide laced aspirin capsules. The son died shortly after he was admitted to the hospital. The daughter survived on life support systems for two days before she was pronounced dead. The daughter was the primary beneficiary of the son's life insurance policy and his mother was the contingent beneficiary. The insurer paid the proceeds of the policy to the father, as the administrator of his daughter's estate. The mother filed an action contending that there was no evidence that the daughter survived her son and that she was therefore entitled to the proceeds of the policy as the contingent beneficiary. The circuit court found otherwise and entered judgment in favor of the father. The mother and the administrator of the son's estate appealed.

The court affirmed, holding that the evidence supported the circuit court's determination that the son predeceased the daughter and, accordingly, that the daughter's estate was entitled to the proceeds of the policy.

The court found that the medical evidence demonstrated that the daughter exhibited positive signs of life after the son ceased showing such signs.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court.

Janus v. Tarasewicz (Ill. App. Ct. 1985) [11 CB 68]: Husband and wife ingested cyanide-laced Tylenol.  Husband died at the home, but wife survived on life support for about two more days.  Husband’s life insurer determined wife survived him and paid proceeds out to wife’s estate.  Rule: Under IL statute, survivorship has to be proven by the party whose claim depends on survivorship by a preponderance of the evidence; the trial court’s finding that wife survived husband because she was not brain dead for two days after husband’s death is not manifestly wrong.
i.    Under IL statute, beneficiary needed only to survive decedent by a moment
ii.   This case led to UPC’s amendment to require 120 hours of survival, but as this case shows, medical survival depended on outside assistance, which could go much longer than 120 hours and raises questions of whether 120 hours are enough

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