Interpretation or Regulation? Gaunt v. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
For those who teach and write about insurance law, few cases have everything. But Gaunt v. John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co. comes close: a mysterious death by gunshot near the railroad tracks in South Dakota, the deceased having applied for but not yet been issued life insurance; a suit for coverage by the deceased's mother; a glimpse into the inner operations and marketing incentives of life insurance companies; a decision of the famous United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, by a classic panel composed of Learned and Augustus Hand and Charles Clark; an opinion by Learned Hand, and a concurrence by Clark; a fascinating, close reading of technical insurance language; two fundamentally different perspectives on the role of courts in the resolution of insurance coverage disputes; concerns about federalism; and tributaries of implication running in so many directions that a large part of a course on insurance law could be taught out of Gaunt alone. As the saying goes, it doesn't get any better than this.