Topic: Effect: Partial payment
On 22 January 1987, Fortune Life and General Insurance Co., Inc. (FORTUNE) issued Fire Insurance Policy No. 136171 in favor of Violeta R. Tibay and/or Nicolas Roraldo on their two-storey residential building, together with all their personal effects therein. The insurance was for P600,000.00 covering the period from 23 January 1987 to 23 January 1988. On 23 January 1987, of the total premium of P2,983.50, petitioner Violeta Tibay only paid P600.00 thus leaving a considerable balance unpaid.
On 8 March 1987 the insured building was completely destroyed by fire. Two days later, Violeta Tibay paid the balance of the premium. On the same day, she filed with FORTUNE a claim on the fire insurance policy. She relied heavily on the 1967 case of Philippine Phoenix Surety and Insurance Inc. v. Woodworks, Inc. where the Court through Mr. Justice Arsenio P. Dizon sustained the ruling of the trial court that partial payment of the premium made the policy effective during the whole period of the policy.
However, FORTUNE denied the claim of Violeta for violation of Policy Condition No. 2 and of Sec. 77 of the Insurance Code. Thus, petitioners sued FORTUNE for damages in the amount of P600,000.00 representing the total coverage of the fire insurance policy plus interest.
The trial court held FORTUNE liable for the total value of the insured building and personal properties while CA reversed the decision.
Whether or not FORTUNE remains liable under the subject fire insurance policy in spite of the failure of petitioners to pay their premium in full.
NO. Insurance is a contract whereby one undertakes for a consideration to indemnify another against loss, damage or liability arising from an unknown or contingent event. The consideration is the premium, which must be paid at the time and in the way and manner specified in the policy, and if not so paid, the policy will lapse and be forfeited by its own terms.
Clearly the Policy provides for payment of premium in full. Accordingly, where the premium has only been partially paid and the balance paid only after the peril insured against has occurred, the insurance contract did not take effect and the insured cannot collect at all on the policy. This is fully supported by Sec. 77 of the Insurance Code
The 1967 Phoenix case is not persuasive; neither is it decisive of the instant dispute. For one, the factual scenario is different. In Phoenix it was the insurance company that sued for the balance of the premium, i.e., it recognized and admitted the existence of an insurance contract with the insured. In the case before us, there is, quite unlike in Phoenix, a specific stipulation that (t)his policy x x x is not in force until the premium has been fully paid and duly receipted by the Company x x x x Resultantly, it is correct to say that in Phoenix a contract was perfected upon partial payment of the premium since the parties had not otherwise stipulated that prepayment of the premium in full was a condition precedent to the existence of a contract.
In Phoenix, by accepting the initial payment of P3,000.00 and then later demanding the remainder of the premium without any other precondition to its enforceability as in the instant case, the insurer in effect had shown its intention to continue with the existing contract of insurance, as in fact it was enforcing its right to collect premium, or exact specific performance from the insured. This is not so here. By express agreement of the parties, no vinculum juris or bond of law was to be established until full payment was effected prior to the occurrence of the risk insured against.
These two (2) cases, Phoenix and Tuscany, adequately demonstrate the waiver, either express or implied, of prepayment in full by the insurer: impliedly, by suing for the balance of the premium as in Phoenix, and expressly, by agreeing to make premiums payable in installments as in Tuscany. But contrary to the stance taken by petitioners, there is no waiver express or implied in the case at bench. Precisely, the insurer and the insured expressly stipulated that (t)his policy including any renewal thereof and/or any indorsement thereon is not in force until the premium has been fully paid to and duly receipted by the Company x x x x and that this policy shall be deemed effective, valid and binding upon the Company only when the premiums therefor have actually been paid in full and duly acknowledged.
Conformably with the aforesaid stipulations explicitly worded and taken in conjunction with Sec. 77 of the Insurance Code the payment of partial premium by the assured in this particular instance should not be considered the payment required by the law and the stipulation of the parties. Rather, it must be taken in the concept of a deposit to be held in trust by the insurer until such time that the full amount has been tendered and duly receipted for. In other words, as expressly agreed upon in the contract, full payment must be made before the risk occurs for the policy to be considered effective and in force.
The case of South Sea Surety and Insurance Company, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, speaks only of two (2) statutory exceptions to the requirement of payment of the entire premium as a prerequisite to the validity of the insurance contract. These exceptions are: (a) in case the insurance coverage relates to life or industrial life (health) insurance when a grace period applies, and (b) when the insurer makes a written acknowledgment of the receipt of premium, this acknowledgment being declared by law to be then conclusive evidence of the premium payment.
Thus, under Sec. 77, as well as Sec. 78, until the premium is paid, and the law has not expressly excepted partial payments, there is no valid and binding contract. Hence, in the absence of clear waiver of prepayment in full by the insurer, the insured cannot collect on the proceeds of the policy.
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