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Greguhn v. Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co.

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Brief Fact Summary.

Greguhn (Plaintiff) was working as a brick mason when scaffolding fell beneath him, resulting in a permanent back injury.  The Defendant insurance companies initially paid Plaintiff under his insurance policies, but notified him that payments would cease.  

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

.  In a unilateral contract for the payment of money in installments after default of one or more, no repudiation can amount to an anticipatory breach of the rest of installments not yet due.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

In Yarbrough v. General Am. Life Ins. Co. it was held that where an insurer repudiates its contractual obligations, by refusing to comply with the terms thereof or by manifesting an intent not to perform an obligation established to be due or to become due in the future, an insured entitled to disability payments is not limited in his recovery to installments which have accrued but may recover in addition to such installments the present value of future installments which will fall due under the policy, calculated with reference to the insured's life expectancy.

View Full Point of Law
Facts.

The insurance companies notified the Plaintiff that his injury would be considered an “illness without confinement” under the policies, and that payments would cease.  However, the Plaintiff suffered severe back problems as a result of the fall, and would never again be able to work as a brick mason. 

The jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiff.  The court calculated the amount due under the policies to the time of trial, but also awarded a lump sum judgment for future benefits under the theory that the companies had anticipatorily breached. 

Issue.

Did the court err in granting an award for future disability under the doctrine of anticipatory breach?

Held.

Remanded to the trial court with directions to modify its judgment so as to eliminate that part pertaining to future benefits under the policies.

·         The Defendants would not have to make payments if the Plaintiff recovered or died. 

·         The Plaintiff could bring another suit if Defendant was late or refused to make future installments. 

Dissent.

The jury found the Plaintiff to be totally and permanently disabled, so Defendant cannot relitigate those matters.  The majority’s decision grants Defendants the opportunity to again refuse to pay installments, and then forces Plaintiff to seek further relief.  There should be no further litigation when the matters have been fully determined. 

Concurrence.

None

Discussion.

The majority found that the Plaintiff could not recover a lump sum for future installments under the theory that no repudiation can amount to an anticipatory breach in a unilateral installment contract.


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