1st British Life Insurance Policy
The first life insurance policy in Britain about which we have details somewhat tellingly ended in a court case because of the disgraceful if creative attempts by the underwriters to avoid paying up.
Richard Martin, an alderman of London, arranged the policy on June 18 1583 for a salter, one William Gibbons. The premium was eight per cent, and the term was 12 months – and therein lay the wriggle room for the underwriters: for Gibbons expired on May 29 1584. For most people that would obviously be less than the 12 months agreed. Not so the underwriters, who deemed that by month a period of 28 days was meant, thus by May 29 the policy in their eyes had expired.
Richard Chandler who held the patent from Elizabeth I to run ‘A Chamber of Insurance’ at the Royal Exchange, where all insurance agreements had to be registered, and the Commissioners of the City of London sided with the dependents of the late Mr Gibbons; it took until 1587, however, for the case to be resolved – for some reason in the Admiralty Court.
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