Grepalife v. CA - Real Party In Interest

316 SCRA 677


>  A contract of group life insurance was executed between Grepalife and DBP. Grepalife agreed to insure the lives of eligible housing loan mortgagors of DBP.

>  Dr. Wilfredo Leuterio, a physician and a housing debtor of DBP applied for membership in the group life insurance plan.

>  In an application form, Dr. Leuterio answered questions concerning his health stating that he is in good health and has never consulted a physician for or a heart condition, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, lung, kidney or stomach disorder or any other physical impairment.

>  Grepalife issued the insurance coverage of Dr. Leuterio, to the extent of his DBP mortgage indebtedness amounting to eighty-six thousand, two hundred (P86,200.00) pesos.

>  Dr. Leuterio died due to "massive cerebral hemorrhage." Consequently, DBP submitted a death claim to Grepalife.

>  Grepalife denied the claim alleging that Dr. Leuterio was not physically healthy when he applied for an insurance coverage and insisted that Dr. Leuterio did not disclose that he had been suffering from hypertension, which caused his death. Allegedly, such non-disclosure constituted concealment that justified the denial of the claim.

>  The widow of the late Dr. Leuterio, filed a complaint against Grepalife for "Specific Performance with Damages." During the trial, Dr. Hernando Mejia, who issued the death certificate, was called to testify. Dr. Mejia’s findings, based partly from the information given by the widow, stated that Dr. Leuterio complained of headaches presumably due to high blood pressure. The inference was not conclusive because Dr. Leuterio was not autopsied, hence, other causes were not ruled out.

>  RTC ruled in favor of widow and against Grepalife.  Grepalife appealed contending that the wife was not the proper party in interest to file the suit, since it is DBP who insured the life of Dr. Leuterio.


Whether or not the widow is the real party in interest, (not DBP) and has legal standing to file the suit.



Grepalife alleges that the complaint was instituted by the widow of Dr. Leuterio, not the real party in interest, hence the trial court acquired no jurisdiction over the case. It argues that when the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment, Grepalife was held liable to pay the proceeds of insurance contract in favor of DBP, the indispensable party who was not joined in the suit.

To resolve the issue, we must consider the insurable interest in mortgaged properties and the parties to this type of contract. The rationale of a group insurance policy of mortgagors, otherwise known as the "mortgage redemption insurance," is a device for the protection of both the mortgagee and the mortgagor. On the part of the mortgagee, it has to enter into such form of contract so that in the event of the unexpected demise of the mortgagor during the subsistence of the mortgage contract, the proceeds from such insurance will be applied to the payment of the mortgage debt, thereby relieving the heirs of the mortgagor from paying the obligation.

In a similar vein, ample protection is given to the mortgagor under such a concept so that in the event of death; the mortgage obligation will be extinguished by the application of the insurance proceeds to the mortgage indebtedness. Consequently, where the mortgagor pays the insurance premium under the group insurance policy, making the loss payable to the mortgagee, the insurance is on the mortgagor’s interest, and the mortgagor continues to be a party to the contract. In this type of policy insurance, the mortgagee is simply an appointee of the insurance fund, such loss-payable clause does not make the mortgagee a party to the contract.

The insured private respondent did not cede to the mortgagee all his rights or interests in the insurance, the policy stating that: "In the event of the debtor’s death before his indebtedness with the Creditor [DBP] shall have been fully paid, an amount to pay the outstanding indebtedness shall first be paid to the creditor and the balance of sum assured, if there is any, shall then be paid to the beneficiary/ies designated by the debtor." When DBP submitted the insurance claim against petitioner, the latter denied payment thereof, interposing the defense of concealment committed by the insured. Thereafter, DBP collected the debt from the mortgagor and took the necessary action of foreclosure on the residential lot of private respondent

And since a policy of insurance upon life or health may pass by transfer, will or succession to any person, whether he has an insurable interest or not, and such person may recover it whatever the insured might have recovered, 14 the widow of the decedent Dr. Leuterio may file the suit against the insurer, Grepalife.

As to the question of whether there was concealment, CA held as affirmed by the SC that contrary to Grepalife’s allegations, there was no sufficient proof that the insured had suffered from hypertension. Aside from the statement of the insured’s widow who was not even sure if the medicines taken by Dr. Leuterio were for hypertension, the appellant had not proven nor produced any witness who could attest to Dr. Leuterio’s medical history.

The fraudulent intent on the part of the insured must be established to entitle the insurer to rescind the contract. Misrepresentation as a defense of the insurer to avoid liability is an affirmative defense and the duty to establish such defense by satisfactory and convincing evidence rests upon the insurer. In the case at bar, the petitioner failed to clearly and satisfactorily establish its defense, and is therefore liable to pay the proceeds of the insurance