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Action on insurance policy. Fulton Civil Court. Before Judge Williams.
BELL, Presiding Judge.
The evidence demanded a verdict for the benefit society in this action to recover benefits under the insurance coverage applied for, where the society had not issued the certificate of membership required to complete the insurance contract.
Nathan Levin made application on February 15, 1965, for membership in the NAWCAS Benevolent Auxiliary, a non-profit death-benefit association, and paid the initial membership fee required for application. Under the constitution and bylaws funds of the society were raised by assessing members monthly a certain sum on the death of a member or on a member's reaching retirement age. On April 16, 1965, the society mailed Levin a notice of the assessment for the month of March, which was the only assessment made against him. He died on April 19, 1965, without having paid any monthly assessments. The society had never issued a certificate of membership to him. Mrs. Helen Levin, the beneficiary designated in the application, brought this action to recover the amount of the death benefit which the society refused to pay. This appeal is from the judgment entered on a jury verdict for the beneficiary.
Article VII of the constitution and bylaws of the society provided: "Section 1.--A certificate of membership, duly signed by a representative of the board of directors shall he issued to each member. Section 2.--The constitution and bylaws of the association, the application for membership, statement of acceptability, and all amendments to each thereof, shall be considered in determining the benefits payable to a member, or his beneficiary." Article X provided: "Section 1.--Members who become delinquent in payment of two (2) or more consecutive assessments, or who fail to pay any assessments other than an annual, initiation or membership fee, shall not be entitled to nor shall their beneficiary be entitled to the payment of benefits . . . Section 4.--Payment of an annual, initiation or membership fee or the payment of any enrollment fee, without payment of subsequent assessments, notwithstanding the member's death subsequent to payment of such fee or fees but prior to the levy of an assessment, shall not render the member eligible for benefits." The application for membership stated: "Eligibility for the death benefit is contingent upon receipt of remittance, completion of the attached application, issuance of the NAB certificate, and payment of monthly assessments."
The Supreme Court declared in Thurmond v. Sovereign Camp W. O. W., 171 Ga. 446, 452 (155 SE 760): "It is true that a certificate of membership is not in every case indispensable to the completion of the contract between the member of a benefit society and the society. It is competent, in the absence of a certificate, to look to the constitution and bylaws of the society in order to determine the obligations of the society and the contract between the society and its members . . . This is a general rule, unless the issuance of the certificate is required by the constitution and bylaws of the society. Generally, however, to complete the contract of insurance, it is necessary, under the constitution and bylaws of a benefit or fraternal society, that a certificate of membership, conforming to the provisions of the constitution and bylaws of the society, be issued and delivered to and accepted by the applicant or by someone in his behalf. The certificate of insurance is to be regarded as a written contract and, so far as it goes, is the measure of the rights of the parties . . . It is generally necessary under the constitution and bylaws of a benefit society that the certificate of insurance be delivered during the lifetime and good health of the applicant; and where delivery is essential to the completion of the contract, no delay caused by the acts of the society can take the place of delivery." Here, as in Thurmond, recovery by the beneficiary is precluded because the contract of insurance was never consummated, no certificate of membership having been issued to the applicant.
The evidence demanded a verdict for the defendant society. The court erred in denying defendant's motion for directed verdict.
Judgment reversed. Hall and Quillian, JJ., concur.
Vandiver, Barwick & Bentley, Thomas S. Bentley, John E. Talmadge, for appellee.
Syna, Lewis & Appel, Larry D. Lewis, for appellant.
SUBMITTED MAY 7, 1968 -- DECIDED JULY 11, 1968.
Friday May 22 18:45 EDT

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