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GRIFFIN v. UNITED STATES

October 15, 1953

GRIFFIN
v.
UNITED STATES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Miller, District Judge.

  On March 28, 1952, George Griffin, Sr., filed his complaint against the defendant and alleged that he was principal beneficiary of National Service Life Insurance Certificate Number V-1521-14-49, in the amount of $10,000, issued upon the life of his son, George Griffin, Jr.; that, while George Griffin, Jr., was in the military service, and while said insurance was in full force and effect, the said George Griffin, Jr., died on March 24, 1951; that he, George Griffin, Sr., applied to the Veterans' Administration of the United States of America for payment under the policy, but that his claim was finally and definitely denied on January 23, 1952, by R.J. Hinton, Director of Claims; and that as principal beneficiary he was entitled to recover judgment against the defendant for the principal sum of $10,000, interest, costs and attorneys' fee.

The defendant on May 21, 1952, filed its answer in which it admitted issuance of the policy and the death of the insured, George Griffin, Jr., but alleged that the said insurance had lapsed for non-payment of premiums, and further that the insured had forfeited all rights under the National Service Life Insurance Act because he had committed the offense of desertion.

On June 27, 1952, George Griffin, Sr., died, and upon motion of Rosa Griffin, administratrix of the estate of George Griffin, Sr., the Court entered an order on April 10, 1953, substituting the said Rosa Griffin, as administratrix of the estate of George Griffin, Sr., deceased, as party plaintiff and reviving the case in her name as such Administratrix.

The case was tried to the Court, without a jury, on August 26, 1953, and at the conclusion of the testimony the case was taken under advisement by the Court, subject to the filing of briefs by the respective parties. The briefs have now been received, and the Court, having considered the pleadings, ore tenus testimony of the witnesses, depositions, exhibits, briefs, and stipulations of fact filed by the parties, now makes and files herein its findings of fact and conclusions of law, separately stated.

Findings of Fact

No. 1. The original plaintiff, George Griffin, Sr., was, at the time of the filing of this suit, a citizen and resident of Johnson County, Arkansas. A disagreement had arisen between the plaintiff and the defendant as to plaintiff's claim for $10,000 as beneficiary of National Service Life Insurance Certificate Number V-1521-14-49 issued upon the life of George Griffin, Jr., son of the said George Griffin, Sr.

No. 2. On June 27, 1952, subsequent to the filing of this suit, the original plaintiff, George Griffin, Sr., died, and the present plaintiff, Rosa Griffin, is administratrix of the estate of George Griffin, Sr. The said Rosa Griffin was the wife of George Griffin, Sr., and the mother of George Griffin, Jr.

No. 3. "George Griffin, Jr., was inducted into and entered active duty in the Army of the United States on April 20, 1945, and was honorably discharged on January 23, 1946. That on January 24, 1946, the said George Griffin, Jr., re-enlisted in the Army of the United States and continued in service until the 5th day of May, 1949, when he was discharged `under honorable conditions', having served two years, eleven months and eight days overseas." (Stipulation of fact No. 4.)

On May 6, 1949, the insured, George Griffin, Jr., enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and on October 11, 1950, was called into extended active duty. On October 13, 1950, he applied for and was granted National Service Life Insurance in the amount of $10,000, and Policy No. VI521-14-49 was issued to him. Principal beneficiary of the policy was George Griffin, Sr., and contingent beneficiary was Rosa Griffin. In the application the insured selected, as method of payment of premiums, an allotment to be taken from his active service pay. (Class N allotment.)

On November 28, 1950, the insured left Camp Stoneman, California, and was absent without leave from that time until his death on March 24, 1951. The insured died at the home of his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. George Griffin, Sr., at Clarksville, Arkansas. The attending physician, Dr. R.E. King, certified that the insured's death was caused by a cerebral hemorrhage and bronchial pneumonia.

The military authorities at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, took control and possession of the body of the insured and caused an autopsy to be performed, which autopsy disclosed findings of: Aneurysm, circle of Willis with perforation, hemorrhage into subarachnoid space, and broncho pneumonia.

Thereafter, a military funeral was conducted by the Army and the flag was presented to his mother, Rosa Griffin. Later, the statutory gratuity was paid to the insured's parents by the United States.

On May 2, 1951, George Griffin, Sr., executed his claim as beneficiary of the insured's policy, and on January 23, 1952, R.J. Hinton, Director, Dependents & Beneficiaries Claims Service, Veterans Administration, wrote to George Griffin, Sr., stating, inter alia, "However, due to the serviceman's status at the time of his death, the serviceman's National Service Life Insurance has been cancelled, effective as of November 28, 1950. Therefore, no insurance benefits are payable and your claim has been disallowed."

No. 4. Major Walter C. Hudson investigated the death of the insured and submitted a complete report of his findings, conclusions and opinions. This report was submitted April 10, 1951, and approved by the Adjutant General April 24, 1951, and sent to Secretary of the Army. On June 4, 1951, the Secretary of the Army, Frank Pace, Jr., after having an opportunity to read and consider this report, as well as the insured's military records and any other pertinent information, executed and caused to be delivered to George Griffin, Sr., the following Certificate of Honorable Service:

           "Honorable Service
            (The Great Seal
                of the
            United States.)
      In the Armed Forces of the
      United States of America
        This Is To Certify That
      Private George Griffin, Jr.
     Died While in the Service of
           Our Country
        As a Member of the
      Army of the United States
On the 24th Day of March 1951. This
             Certificate is
     Awarded as a Testimonial of
     Honest and Faithful Service
                /s/ Frank Pace Jr

               Secretary of the Army"

This certificate was issued under the provisions of Department of the Army Special Regulation 600-45-3, 17 May 1949, which provides, in part:

    "12. Certificate of Honorable Service and Record of
  Service (deceased military personnel) a. A
  Certificate of Honorable Service (AGO Form 01219) is
  issued to the closest next of kin of record in
  recognition of services rendered by those who die in
  line of duty while in the active military service * *
    "(2) Certificates of Honorable Service will be
  issued by The Adjutant General upon receipt of
  reports of death."

No. 5. At the time the insured left Camp Stoneman, California, the United States was indebted to him in the sum of $64.31 as his regular service pay for the period from November 1 to November 28. This sum of money remained to insured's credit on the payroll until after his death. Nevertheless, Captain William L. Otis, purporting to act under the authority of Department of the Army Special Regulation No. 35-1900-5, 10 October 50, on February 28, 1951, executed form DD 234 and on March 6, 1951, Lt. Col. ...


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