Yesterday I wrote about the February 2011 landmark decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in Morrison v. Allen. There was one relatively minor point concerning an alleged misrepresentation in an application that grabbed my attention. In Morrison, the insurance company denied Ms. Morrison’s claim for life insurance benefits based on alleged misrepresentations of her husband in his application for insurance. Specifically, the application asked, "In the past five years, have any proposed insureds been charged with or convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or had any driving violations?" The insured answered, "No."
The alleged misrepresentation arose from the insured’s conviction for driving while impaired ("DWI") a couple of years prior to the submission of the application. On first glance, it might appear clear that failure to disclose the DWI would constitute a material misrepresentation based on the language of the question in the application. But not so fast. The Supreme Court affirmed that the insured’s response was technically correct because he was convicted of DWI, which is a separate offense from driving under the influence.
Although this particular issue was literally just a footnote in the very lengthy opinion, it might come in handy one of these days for the unfortunate soul who finds his claim denied as a result of an undisclosed DWI.