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[ GR No. L-25579, Mar 29, 1972 ]



150 Phil. 880

[ G.R. No. L-25579, March 29, 1972 ]




This is an appeal from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan in its Civil Case No. D-1700. 

The facts are stipulated Juan S. Biagtan was insured with defendant Insular Life Assurance Company under Policy No. 398075 for the sum of P5,000.00 and, under a supplementary contract denominated "Accidental Death Benefit Clause, for an additional sum of P5,000.00 if "the death of the Insured resulted directly from bodily injury effected solely through external and violent means sustained in an accident * * * and independently of all other causes." The clause, however, expressly provided that it would not apply where death resulted from an injury "intentionally inflicted by a third party." 

On the night of May 20, 1964 or during the first hours of the following day a band of robbers entered the house of the insured Juan S. Biagtan.  What happened then is related in the decision of the trial court as follows: 

" * * * ; that on the night of May 20, 1964 or the first hours of May 21, 1964, while the said life policy and supplementary contract were in full force and effect, the house of insured Juan S. Biagtan was robbed by a band of robbers who were charged in and convicted by the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan for robbery with homicide; that in committing the robbery, the robbers, on, reaching the staircase landing of the second floor, rushed towards the doors of the second floor room, where they suddenly met a person near the door of one of the rooms who turned out to be the insured Juan S. Biagtan who received thrusts from their sharp-pointed instruments, causing wounds on the body of said Juan S. Biagtan resulting in his death at about 7 a.m. on the same day, May 21, 1964;" 

Plaintiffs, as beneficiaries of the insured, filed a claim under the policy.  The insurance company paid the basic amount of P5,000.00 but refused to pay the additional sum of P5,000.00 under the accidental death benefit clause, on the ground that the insured's death resulted from injuries intentionally inflicted by third parties and therefore was not covered.  Plaintiffs filed suit to recover, and after due hearing the court a quo rendered judgment in their favor.  Hence the present appeal by the insurer.

The only issue here is whether under the facts as stipulated and found by the trial court the wounds received by the insured at the hands of the robbers nine in all, five of them mortal and four non-mortal were inflicted intentionally.  The court, in ruling negatively on the issue, stated that since the parties presented no evidence and submitted the case upon stipulation, there was no "proof that the act of receiving thrust (sic) from the sharp-pointed instrument of the robbers was intended to inflict injuries upon the person of the insured or any other person or merely to scare away any person so as to ward off any resistance or obstacle that might be offered in the pursuit of their main objective which was robbery." 

The trial court committed a plain error in drawing the conclusion it did from the admitted facts.  Nine wounds were inflicted upon the deceased, all by means of thrust with sharp-pointed instruments wielded by the robbers.  This is a physical fact as to which there is no dispute.  So is the fact that five of those wounds caused the death of the insured.  Whether the robbers had the intent to kill or merely to scare the victim or to ward off any defense he might offer, it cannot be denied that the act itself of inflicting the injuries was intentional.  It should be noted that the exception in the accidental benefit clause invoked by the appellant does not speak of the purpose whether homicidal or not of a third party in causing the injuries, but only of the fact that such injuries have been "intentionally" inflicted - this obviously to distinguish them from injuries which, although received at the hands of a third party, are purely accidental.  This construction is the basic idea expressed in the coverage of the clause itself, namely, that "the death of the insured resulted directly from bodily injury effected solely through external and violent means sustained in an accident  * * * and independently of all other causes." A gun which discharges while being cleaned and kills a bystander; a hunter who shoots at his prey and hits a person instead; an athlete in a competitive game involving physical effort who collides with an opponent and fatally injures him as a result:  these are instances where the infliction of the injury is unintentional and therefore would be within the coverage of an accidental death benefit clause such as that in question in this case.  But where a gang of robbers enter a house and coming face to face with the owner, even if unexpectedly, stab him repeatedly, it is contrary to all reason and logic to say that his injuries are not intentionally inflicted, regardless of whether they prove fatal or not.  As it was, in the present case they did prove fatal, and the robbers have been accused and convicted of the crime of robbery with homicide. 

The case of Calanoc vs. Court of Appeals, 98 Phil. 79, is relied upon by the trial court in support of its decision.  The facts in that case, however, are different from those obtaining here.  The insured there was a watchman in a certain company, who happened to be invited by a policeman to come along as the latter was on his way to investigate a reported robbery going on in a private house.  As the two of them, together with the owner of the house, approached and stood in front of the main gate, a shot was fired and it turned out afterwards that the watchman was hit in the abdomen, the wound causing his death.  Under those circumstances this Court held that it could not be said that the killing was intentional for there was the possibility that the malefactor had fired the shot to scare the people around for his own protection and not necessarily to kill or hit the victim.  A similar possibility is clearly ruled out by the facts in the case now before Us.  For while a single shot fired from a distance, and by a person who was not even seen aiming at the victim, could indeed have been fired without intent to kill or injure, nine wounds inflicted with bladed weapons at close range cannot conceivably be considered as innocent insofar as such intent is concerned.  The manner of execution of the crime permits no other conclusion. 

Court decisions in the American jurisdiction, where similar provisions in accidental death benefit clauses in insurance policies have been construed, may shed light on the issue before Us.  Thus, it has been held that "intentional" as used in an accident policy excepting intentional injuries inflicted by the insured or any other person, etc., implies the exercise of the reasoning faculties, consciousness, and volition.[1] Where a provision of the policy excludes intentional injury, it is the intention of the person inflicting the injury that is controlling.[2]   If the injuries suffered by the insured clearly resulted from the intentional act of a third person the insular is relieved from liability as stipulated.[3] 

In the case of Hutchcraft's Ex'r. vs. Travelers' Ins. Co., 87 Ky. 300, 8 S.W. 570, 12 Am. St. Rep. 484, the insured was waylaid and assassinated for the purpose of robbery.  Two (2) defenses were interposed to the action to recover indemnity, namely:  (1) that the insured having been killed by intentional means, his death was not accidental, and (2) that the proviso in the policy expressly exempted the insurer from liability in case the insured died from injuries intentionally inflicted by another person.  In rendering judgment for the insurance company the Court held that while the assassination of the insured Was as to him an unforeseen event and therefore accidental, "the clause of the proviso that excludes the (insurer's) liability, in case death or injury is intentionally inflicted by any other person, applies to this case." 

In Butero vs. Travelers' Acc. Ins. Co., 96 Wis. 536, 65 Am. St. Rep. 61, 71 S.W. 811, the insured was shot three times by a person unknown late on a dark and stormy night, while working in the coal shed of a railroad company.  The policy did not cover death resulting from "intentional injuries inflicted by the insured or any other person." The inquiry was as to the question whether the shooting that caused the insured's death was accidental or intentional; and the Court found that under the facts, showing that the murderer knew his victim and that he fired with intent to kill, there could be no recovery under the policy which excepted death from intentional injuries inflicted by any person. 

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is reversed and the complaint dismissed, without pronouncement as to costs. 

Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando, and Villamor, JJ., concur. 

[1] Berger vs. Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co., 88 F. 241, 242.  

[2] Travelers' Protective Ass'n. of America vs. Fawcett, 104 N.E. 991, 50 Ind. App. 111. 

[3] Continental Cas. Co. vs. Klinge, 82 Ind. App. 277, 144 N.E. 246; Washington vs. Union C. & Sur. Co., 115 Mo. App. 627, 91 S.W. 988; National L & Acci. Co. vs. De Lopez (Tex. Civ. App.), 207 S.W. 160.