The contract clause of the United States Constitution restricts the power of states to disrupt contractual arrangements. It provides that “No state shall pass any . . . law impairing the obligation of contracts.” U.S. Const., Art. I, ¶ 10, cl. 1.
This was a case about life insurance proceeds. It generated a single dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court about the Constitution’s contract clause, which prohibits states from enacting laws that impair the obligation of contracts.
Mark Sveen named his wife, Kaye Melin, as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy he purchased in 1998. A 2002 Minnesota statute automatically revoked the designation (as beneficiary) when the couple divorced in 2007. Sveen’s children from a prior marriage claimed the life insurance proceeds as contingent beneficiaries when he died in 2011.