CR135 Exceptions and Exclusions – suicide –when is suicide suicide?

CR135

Exceptions and Exclusions – suicide –when is suicide suicide?

Background

The contract of life insurance in the present instance excluded cover should the life insured die “by his own intentional act…within two years of the date of application or commencement date, whichever is the later…”

The life insured tried to commit suicide on two previous occasions. In a further attempt to take her life she dived into the sea. However, a fisherman rescued her and she was taken to hospital for treatment where she died eleven days later. According to the inquest her death was caused by “bronchopneumonia associated with a history of near-drowning.”

The life insured’s death occurred within the two year period mentioned above and the insurer invoked the suicide exclusion.

Discussion

The complainant, the executor in the deceased estate, contended that the deceased did not die as a result of suicide. Her attempt at suicide, so it was contended, was foiled when she was rescued; the rescue was a novus actus intervenence; the actual cause of her death was the subsequent bronchopneumonia or perhaps heart failure.

In our view the life insured intended to take her life by jumping into the sea although she did not foresee the precise manner in which her death would occur. The causal connection between her own act and her eventual death was in our judgement so close and significant that we could not agree that the causal chain had been broken by the subsequent events. We accordingly could not find a novus actus interveniens.

Result

We ruled that the life insured died as a result of suicide and that the insurer was exempted by virtue of the suicide clause.

MFBR
April 06

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