Thursday, July 12, 2012

Geagonia v CA G.R. No. 114427 February 6, 1995

Geagonia, owner of a store, obtained from Country Bankers fire insurance policy for P100,000.00. The 1 year policy and covered thestock trading of dry goods.
The policy noted the requirement that
"3.  The insured shall give notice to the Company of any insurance or insurances already effected, or which may subsequently be effected, covering any of the property or properties consisting of stocks in trade, goods in process and/or inventories only hereby insured, and unless notice be given and the particulars of such insurance or insurances be stated therein or endorsed in this policy pursuant to Section 50 of the Insurance Code, by or on behalf of the Company before the occurrence of any loss or damage, all benefits under this policy shall be deemed forfeited, provided however, that this condition shall not apply when the total insurance or insurances in force at the time of the loss or damage is not more than P200,000.00."
The petitioners’ stocks were destroyed by fire. He then filed a claim which was subsequently denied because the petitioner’s stocks were covered by two other fire insurance policies for Php 200,000 issued by PFIC. The basis of the private respondent's denial was the petitioner's alleged violation of Condition 3 of the policy.
Geagonia then filed a complaint against the private respondent in the Insurance Commission for the recovery of P100,000.00 under fire insurance policy and damages. He claimed that he knew the existence of the other two policies. But, he said that he had no knowledge of the provision in the private respondent's policy requiring him to inform it of the prior policies and this requirement was not mentioned to him by the private respondent's agent.  
The Insurance Commission found that the petitioner did not violate Condition 3 as he had no knowledge of the existence of the two fire insurance policies obtained from the PFIC; that it was Cebu Tesing Textiles w/c procured the PFIC policies w/o informing him or securing his consent; and that Cebu Tesing Textile, as his creditor, had insurable interest on the stocks.
The Insurance Commission then ordered the respondent company to pay complainant the sum of P100,000.00 with interest and attorney’s fees.
CA reversed the decision of the Insurance Commission because it found that the petitioner knew of the existence of the two other policies issued by the PFIC.

1. WON the petitioner had not disclosed the two insurance policies when he obtained the fire insurance and thereby violated Condition 3 of the policy.
2. WON he is prohibited from recovering

Held: Yes. No. Petition Granted

1. The court agreed with the CA that the petitioner knew of the prior policies issued by the PFIC. His letter of 18 January 1991 to the private respondent conclusively proves this knowledge. His testimony to the contrary before the Insurance Commissioner and which the latter relied upon cannot prevail over a written admission made ante litem motam. It was, indeed, incredible that he did not know about the prior policies since these policies were not new or original.
2. Stated differently, provisions, conditions or exceptions in policies which tend to work a forfeiture of insurance policies should be construed most strictly against those for whose benefits they are inserted, and most favorably toward those against whom they are intended to operate.  
With these principles in mind, Condition 3 of the subject policy is not totally free from ambiguity and must be meticulously analyzed. Such analysis leads us to conclude that (a) the prohibition applies only to double insurance, and (b) the nullity of the policy shall only be to the extent exceeding P200,000.00 of the total policies obtained.
Furthermore, by stating within Condition 3 itself that such condition shall not apply if the total insurance in force at the time of loss does not exceed P200,000.00, the private respondent was amenable to assume a co-insurer's liability up to a loss not exceeding P200,000.00. What it had in mind was to discourage over-insurance. Indeed, the rationale behind the incorporation of "other insurance" clause in fire policies is to prevent over-insurance and thus avert the perpetration of fraud. When a property owner obtains insurance policies from two or more insurers in a total amount that exceeds the property's value, the insured may have an inducement to destroy the property for the purpose of collecting the insurance. The public as well as the insurer is interested in preventing a situation in which a fire would be profitable to the insured.

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