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Historic Public Health and Communicable Disease Cases

Bohaker v. Travelers' Insurance Co., 102 N.E. 342 (Mass. 1913)

(Insurance, Typhoid Fever, Accidental Death)

This is an action to recover from an insurance policy from the death of John M. Babson. Mr. Babson died from injuries he received after falling 30 feet from a window in his room while he was left unattended while suffering from Typhoid Fever. The insurance policy refused to pay. The policy covered bodily injuries, effected independently of all other causes, through external, violent or accidental means. Suicide, whether committed while sane or insane was not covered. The insurance company claimed that Mr. Babson's death was a suicide while insane and that he had actually jumped to his death during a fit of delirium caused by Typhoid. The court ruled that since suicide involves a great deal of moral turpitude it couldn't be assumed. The insurance company also claimed that the cause of Mr. Babson's death was actually Typhoid Fever because if not for his suffering from Typhoid he would have, in his delirium, fallen. The Court rejected this argument quoting Manufacturer's Accident Indemnity Co. v. Dorgan, 58 Fed. 945, 954 "If the deceased suffered death by drowning, no matter what the cause of his falling into the water, whether disease or slipping, the drowning in such case would be the proximate and sole cause of the disability or death, unless it appeared that death would have been the result, even had there been no water at hand to fall into. The disease would be but the condition; the drowning would be the moving, sole, and proximate cause."

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