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Tang v. CA- Insurance Fraud or Mistake

90 SCRA 236

Facts:

>  On Sept. 25, 2965, Lee Su Guat, widow, 61 years old and illiterate who spoke only Chinese, applied for life insurance for 60T with Philamlife. The application was in two parts, both in English.

>  The second part dealt with her state of health.  Her answers having shown that she was health, Philamlife issued her a policy effective Oct. 23, 1965 with her nephew Vicente Tang as beneficiary.

>  On Nov. 15, 1965, Lee again applied for additional insurance of her life for 40T.  Since it was only recent from the time she first applied, no further medical exam was made but she accomplished Part 1 (which certified the truthfulness of statements made in Part. 2)

>  The policy was again approved.  On Apri 20 1966, Lee Su Guat died of Lung cancer.

>  Tang claimed the amount o 100T but Philamlife refused to pay on the ground that the insured was guilty of concealment and misrepresentation.

>  Both trial court and CA ruled that Lee was guilty of concealment.

>  Tang’s position, however, is that because Lee was illiterate and spoke only Chinese, she could not be held guilty of concealment of her health history because the application for insurance was English, and the insurer has not proven that the terms thereof had been fully explained to her as provided by Art. 1332 of CC.


Issue:


Whether or not Art. 1332 applies.


Held:

NO.

Art. 1332 is NOT applicable.  Under said article, the obligation to show that the terms of the contract had been fully explained to the party who is unable to read or understand the language of the contract, when fraud or mistake is alleged, devolves on the party seeking to enforce it.  Here, the insurance company is NOT seeking to enforce the contract; on the contrary, it is seeking to avoid its performance.


It is petitioner who is seeking to enforce it, even as fraud or mistake is NOT alleged.  Accordingly, Philamlife was under no obligation to prove that the terms of the insurance contract were fully explained to the other party.  Even if we were to say that the insurer is the one seeking the performance of the cont contracts by avoiding paying the claim, it has to be noted as above stated that there has been NO imputation of mistake of fraud by the illiterate insured whose personality is represented by her beneficiary.  In sum, Art. 1332 is inapplicable, and considering the findings of both the trial court and the CA as to the Concealment of Lee, the SC affirms their decisions.


Concurring: J., Antonio

In a contract of insurance, each party must communicate to the other, in good faith, all facts within his knowledge which are material to the contract, and which the other has no means of ascertaining.  As a general rule, the failure by the insured to disclose conditions affecting the risk of which he is aware makes the contract voidable at the option of the insurer.


The reason for this rule is that insurance policies are traditionally contracts uberrimae fidei, which means “most abundant good faith”, “absolute and perfect candor or openness and honesty,” “absence of any concealment or deception however slight.”  Here the CA found that the insured deliberately concealed material facts about her physical condition and history and/or concealed with whoever assisted her in relaying false information to the medical examiner.  Certainly, the petitioner cannot assume inconsistent positions by attempting to enforce the contract of insurance for the purpose of collecting the proceeds of the policy and at the same time nullify the contract by claiming that it was executed through fraud or mistake.


NOTE: Art. 1332:  When one of the parties is unable to read or if the contract is in a language not understood by him, and mistake or fraud is alleged, the person enforcing the contract must show that the terms thereof have been fully explained to him.