Lalican vs Insular Life (G.R. No. 183526 August 25, 2009)

Lalican vs The Insular Life Assurance Company Limited
G.R. No. 183526  August 25, 2009

Facts: Violeta is the widow of the deceased Eulogio C. Lalican (Eulogio). During his lifetime, Eulogio applied for an insurance policy with Insular Life. On 24 April 1997, Insular Life, through Josephine Malaluan (Malaluan), its agent in Gapan City, issued in favor of Eulogio Policy No. 9011992, which contained a 20-Year Endowment Variable Income Package Flexi Plan worth P500,000.00, with two riders valued at P 500,000.00 each. Thus, the value of the policy amounted to P1,500,000.00. Violeta was named as the primary beneficiary. P Under the terms of Policy No. 9011992, Eulogio was to pay the premiums on a quarterly basis in the amount of 8,062.00, payable every 24 April, 24 July, 24 October and 24 January of each year, until the end of the 20-year period of the policy. According to the Policy Contract, there was a grace period of 31 days for the payment of each premium subsequent to the first. If any premium was not paid on or before the due date, the policy would be in default, and if the premium remained unpaid until the end of the grace period, the policy would automatically lapse and become void.  Eulogio paid the premiums due on 24 July 1997 and 24 October 1997. However, he failed to pay the premium due on 24 January 1998, even after the lapse of the grace period of 31 days. Policy No. 9011992, therefore, lapsed and became void. Eulogio submitted to the Cabanatuan District Office of Insular Life, through Malaluan, on 26 May 1998, an Application for Reinstatement of Policy No. 9011992, together with the amount of P 8,062.00 to pay for the premium due on 24 January 1998. In a letter dated 17 July 1998, Insular Life notified Eulogio that his Application for Reinstatement could not be fully processed because, although he already deposited P8,062.00 as payment for the 24 January 1998 premium, he left unpaid the overdue interest thereon amounting to P322.48. Thus, Insular Life instructed Eulogio to pay the amount of interest and to file another application for reinstatement. Eulogio was likewise advised by Malaluan to pay the premiums that subsequently became due on 24 April 1998 and 24 July 1998, plus interest. On 17 September 1998, Eulogio went to Malaluans house and submitted a second Application for Reinstatement of Policy No. 9011992, including the amount of P17,500.00, representing payments for the overdue interest on the premium for 24 January 1998, and the premiums which became due on 24 April 1998 and 24 July 1998. As Malaluan was away on a business errand, her husband received Eulogios second Application for Reinstatement and issued a receipt for the amount Eulogio deposited.  A while later, on the same day, 17 September 1998, Eulogio died of cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to electrocution.

Issue: Whether or not Eulogio had an existing insurable interest in his own life until the day of his death in order to have the insurance policy validly reinstated.

Held: No. An insurable interest is one of the most basic and essential requirements in an insurance contract. In general, an insurable interest is that interest which a person is deemed to have in the subject matter insured, where he has a relation or connection with or concern in it, such that the person will derive pecuniary benefit or advantage from the preservation of the subject matter insured and will suffer pecuniary loss or damage from its destruction, termination, or injury by the happening of the event insured against. The existence of an insurable interest gives a person the legal right to insure the subject matter of the policy of insurance. Section 10 of the Insurance Code indeed provides that every person has an insurable interest in his own life. Section 19 of the same code also states that an interest in the life or health of a person insured must exist when the insurance takes effect, but need not exist thereafter or when the loss occurs.

In the instant case, Eulogios death rendered impossible full compliance with the conditions for reinstatement of Policy No. 9011992. True, Eulogio, before his death, managed to file his Application for Reinstatement and deposit the amount for payment of his overdue premiums and interests thereon with Malaluan; but Policy No. 9011992 could only be considered reinstated after the Application for Reinstatement had been processed and approved by Insular Life during Eulogios lifetime and good health.

The stipulation in a life insurance policy giving the insured the privilege to reinstate it upon written application does not give the insured absolute right to such reinstatement by the mere filing of an application. The insurer has the right to deny the reinstatement if it is not satisfied as to the insurability of the insured and if the latter does not pay all overdue premium and all other indebtedness to the insurer. After the death of the insured the insurance Company cannot be compelled to entertain an application for reinstatement of the policy because the conditions precedent to reinstatement can no longer be determined and satisfied.

Malaluan did not have the authority to approve Eulogios Application for Reinstatement. Malaluan still had to turn over to Insular Life Eulogios Application for Reinstatement and accompanying deposits, for processing and approval by the latter.

Violeta did not adduce any evidence that Eulogio might have failed to fully understand the import and meaning of the provisions of his Policy Contract and/or Application for Reinstatement, both of which he voluntarily signed. While it is a cardinal principle of insurance law that a policy or contract of insurance is to be construed liberally in favor of the insured and strictly as against the insurer company, yet, contracts of insurance, like other contracts, are to be construed according to the sense and meaning of the terms, which the parties themselves have used. If such terms are clear and unambiguous, they must be taken and understood in their plain, ordinary and popular sense.

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