Thursday, July 12, 2012

Enriquez v Sunlife November 29, 1920 G.R. No. L-15895

Malcolm, J.:

This is an action brought by the plaintiff ad administrator of the estate of the late Joaquin Ma. Herrer to recover from the defendant life insurance company the sum of pesos 6,000 paid by the deceased for a life annuity. The trial court gave judgment for the defendant. Plaintiff appeals.
Joaquin Herrer made application to the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada through its office in Manila for a life annuity. Two days later he paid the sum of P6,000 to the manager of the company’s Manila office and was given a receipt. The application was given to the head office in Canada. The oofice gave acceptance by cable on November 26, 1917. The policy was issued on December 4.
The attorney, Mr. Torres then wrote to the Manila office of the company stating that Herrer desired to withdraw his application. The following day the local office replied to Mr. Torres, stating that the policy had been issued, and called attention to the notification. This letter was received by Mr. Torres on the morning of December 21, 1917 and Mr. Herrer died on December 20, 1917.
(Whether on the same day the cable was received notice was sent by the Manila office of Herrer that the application had been accepted, is a disputed point, which will be discussed later.)

Issue: WON Herrer received notice of acceptance of his application.

Held: No. Judgment reversed.

Sunlife averred that that they prepared the letter on November 26, 1917, and handed it to the local manager for signature. The manager said that he received the application November 26, 1917. He said that on the same day he signed a letter notifying Mr. Herrer of this acceptance. They said that these letters, after being signed, were sent to the chief clerk and placed on the mailing desk for transmission. The witness could not tell if the letter had every actually been placed in the mails.
The plaintiff’s attorney testified to having prepared Herrer’s will, and his client mentioned his application for a life annuity. He said that the only document relating to the transaction in his possession was the provisional receipt. Rafael Enriquez, the administrator of the estate, testified that he had gone through the effects of the deceased and had found no letter of notification from the insurance company to Mr. Herrer.
Our deduction from the evidence on this issue must be that the letter of November 26, 1917, notifying Mr. Herrer that his application had been accepted, prepared, and signed in the local office of the insurance company and was placed in the ordinary channels for transmission. But this was never actually mailed and thus was never received by the applicant.
The law that applies here is the Civil Code Art 1802, because the Insurance Act is silent as to the methods followed to create a contract of insurance. Article 1802, not only describes a contact of life annuity, but but in two other articles, also gives strong clues as to the proper disposition of the case.
For instance, article 16 of the Civil Code provides that “In matters which are governed by special laws, any deficiency of the latter shall be supplied by the provisions of this Code.” The special law on the subject of insurance is deficient in enunciating the principles governing acceptance, the subject-matter of the Civil code, if there be any, would be controlling. In the Civil Code is found article 1262 providing that “Consent is shown by the concurrence of offer and acceptance with respect to the thing and the consideration which are to constitute the contract. An acceptance made by letter shall not bind the person making the offer except from the time it came to his knowledge. The contract, in such case, is presumed to have been entered into at the place where the offer was made.”
The Civil Code rule, that an acceptance made by letter shall bind the person making the offer only from the date it came to his knowledge avoids uncertainty and tends to security.
Also, U.S. jurisprudence states that the courts who take this view have expressly held that an acceptance of an offer of insurance not actually or constructively communicated to the proposer does not make a contract. Only the mailing of acceptance, it has been said, completes the contract of insurance.
The law applicable to the case is found to be the second paragraph of article 1262 of the Civil Code providing that an acceptance made by letter shall not bind the person making the offer except from the time it came to his knowledge. Also, that according to the provisional receipt, three things had to be accomplished by the insurance company before there was a contract: (1) There had to be a medical examination of the applicant; (2) there had to be approval of the application by the head office of the company; and (3) this approval had in some way to be communicated by the company to the applicant. The further admitted facts are that the head office in Montreal did accept the application, did cable the Manila office to that effect, did actually issue the policy and did actually write the letter of notification and place it in the usual channels for transmission to the addressee.
The fact as to the letter of notification thus fails to concur with the essential elements of the general rule pertaining to the mailing and delivery of mail matter as announced by the American courts, namely, when a letter or other mail matter is addressed and mailed with postage prepaid there is a rebuttable presumption of fact that it was received by the addressee as soon as it could have been transmitted to him in the ordinary course of the mails. But if any one of these elemental facts fails to appear, it is fatal to the presumption. For instance, a letter will not be presumed to have been received by the addressee unless it is shown that it was deposited in the post-office, properly addressed and stamped.
The contract for a life annuity was not perfected because it has not been proved satisfactorily that the acceptance of the application ever came to the knowledge of the applicant.

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