Houchens v. American Assurance Co.

927 F.2d 163 (4th Cir. 1991).


Houchens’ (P) husband disappeared after arrival in Thailand in August 15, 1980, and was not heard from since. A number of agencies searched for the husband including the FBI, ICAO, the Red Cross, and the State Department. Under Virginia law, a person who is missing for seven years is presumed dead. On April 29, 1988, P had her husband declared legally dead. P attempted to collect on two life insurance policies issued by American (D). Both were accidental death policies. The proceeds of those policies were to be paid upon proof that P's death was accidental. D refused to pay, and P sued in federal court for breach of contract. D moved for summary judgment; there was no evidence that the insured had died or that he had died accidentally. D's motion was granted, and P appealed.