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Green v Russel [1959] 2 QB 226

Benefit paid out under insurance contract not to be deducted from damages upon death

Facts

An employer took out a personal accident group insurance policy. Under this policy, the employer was “the insured” and curtain named employees were “the insured persons.” The policy provided that if any insured person died then the insurance company would pay a specified sum but the insured was the absolute owner of the policy and the insurer was not bound to recognise any equitable or other claim in the policy.

Issue

The plaintiff was the mother of one of the insured persons who had died whilst at work. Damages were agreed at £1,300. £1,000 was to be paid to the plaintiff under the insurance policy. The question was whether this £1,000 was a benefit arising out of the death which should be taken into account and deducted from the agreed damages. The trial judge found in favour of the plaintiff. The defendant appealed.

Held

The Court of Appeal held that the deceased, and thereby the plaintiff, had no right at law to the policy money as he was not a party to the insurance contract. The deceased employee also did not have any equitable interest in money under the policy. However, the Court upheld the plaintiff’s claim that the Fatal Accidents (Damages) Act 1908 precluded the £1,000 being taken into account in assessing the damages to be awarded to her. The £1,000 was “paid or payable on the death of the deceased under any contract of…insurance” within section 1 of the 1908 Act because it was contractually (albeit indirectly) paid to the plaintiff. Therefore, the £1,000 was not to be deducted from the amount of damages to which the plaintiff was entitled and the appeal was dismissed.

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