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U.S. Supreme Court

Home Benefit Association v. Sargent, 142 U.S. 691 (1892)

Home Benefit Association v. Sargent

No. 155

Argued January 12, 1892

Decided January 26, 1892

142 U.S. 691


A policy of life insurance provided as a condition, that death of the assured "by his own hand or act, whether voluntary or involuntary, sane or insane at the time" was a risk .not assumed by the insurer. A suit to recover the amount of the policy was tried on the theory on both sides that death from a shot from a pistol fired by accident by the assured was covered by the policy.


(1) Evidence drawn out on the cross-examination of a witness which has a bearing on the testimony given by him on his direct examination is competent, especially where it relates to a part of the same conversation.

(2) An inquiry as to what conversation was had with the plaintiff's agent is not competent if it does not appear what the subject of the conversation was or what was intended to be proved by it.

(3) In view of the contents of the proofs of death and of the evidence, the plaintiff was not estopped from claiming that the death of the assured was caused otherwise than by suicide, and it would not have been proper for the court to charge the jury that by the introduction of the proofs of death, the burden was put on the plaintiff to satisfy the jury, by a preponderance of evidence, that the assured died otherwise than by his own hand.

(4) The defendant having alleged in its answer that the death of the assured was due to a cause excepted from the operation of the policy, it was not error for the court to charge the jury that the defendant was bound to establish such defense by evidence outweighing that of the plaintiff.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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