Onus of proof – life insured murdered – payment of proceeds to beneficiary delayed
The insured insured his own life for a substantial sum in favour of his wife. He was found murdered in his motor vehicle on a country road a considerable distance from his home. The insurer delayed payment of the proceeds of the policy to the beneficiary on the grounds that the police were not prepared to issue a certificate that the beneficiary was not a suspect. The police refused to issue such a certificate because they had not completed their investigations. It became apparent that the police were not making any real progress with their investigations. More or less a year after her husband’s death, the beneficiary approached this office for help. On enquiry it transpired that there were no real grounds to link the beneficiary to the crime. This was confirmed by a lie detector test taken by the beneficiary.
Although the principle that nobody may benefit from his or her own crime holds good, we came to the conclusion that the insurer, on whom the onus rested, did not present a tittle of evidence implicating the nominated beneficiary. We were consequently of the view that it was incumbent on the insurer to pay the proceeds a reasonable time after the occurrence of the event insured against. A reasonable time under the circumstances was regarded as two months from the death. Consequently the insurer was requested to pay the capital amount together with interest calculated from this date. The insurer complied.