Columbian Insurance Company v. Ashby
Error to the Circuit Court of the district of Columbia.
This was an action on the case brought by Ashby and Stribling against the Columbian Insurance Company of Alexandria, on a policy of insurance on the brig Hope, on a voyage from Alexandria, to and at Barbadoes and back to the United States; the vessel valued at three thousand dollars, and the sum insured being one thousand dollars. The loss was stated to be, 'that while the vessel was proceeding on her voyage, and before her arrival at Barbadoes, she was, by storm and peril of the sea, sunk, and wholly lost to the plaintiffs, and did not arrive at Barbadoes.' The declaration also avers, that the plaintiffs did in due time and form abandon the vessel to the defendants.
The facts of the case are fully stated in the opinion of the court; and the only question before the court was, whether on the evidence laid before the jury, it was competent for the jury to infer, and they ought to infer that Stribling, one of the assured, for himself and his partner, Ashby, had revoked the abandonment made, as stated, to the insurance company.
Mr Jones, for the plaintiffs in error, contended; that the conduct of Mr Stribling was a revocation of the abanment. The persons on board a vessel which may be wrecked are the agents of the assured and the owners; but this does not exclude the insurers from interfering, and if they think proper, from taking charge of the property; and if the party insured comes in and resists the authority of the assurers, he resumes the title to the property, and the assurers are discharged. Cited, Chesapeake Insurance Company vs. Stark, 6 Cranch, 268.
In this case, the agent of the insurance company was at the place where the vessel was wrecked, and was ready to do every thing for the safety of the property, and to get it off. This was prevented by the sale made by the directions of the assured, and against the wish of their agent.
If the owner or master of a vessel does acts wholly inconsistent with the rights of the assured, it is a waiver of the abandonment. 2 Marsh. on Insurance, 614, and cases there cited.
Mr %. j. l/ee and Mr Swann, for the defendants in error; denied that after the abandonment was made, the insurance company acted in relation to the property assured. The agent of the company left Alexandria before the abandonment was received by the company; and no authority was transmitted to him at Norfolk after the same. All his acts were therefore without warrant from the company.
In his letter offering to advance money to get off the vessel, the liability of the insurance company for the loss was expressly reserved. He did not order the sale of the vessel to be stopped for the plaintiffs in error.
This court on examining the evidence will say, it was not such as the jury should have considered sufficient to show that the abandonment was withdrawn or revoked. The whole of the conduct of Mr Stribling was, in the situation in which he stood, perfectly proper; and the evidence of the auctioneer shows that to have been the case, and that after the sale had commenced he did no more than express an opinion. Cited, Phillips on Ins. 407. 5 Serg. & Rawle, 506.
Mr Jones, in reply, contended; that the sending of the agent of the insurers to Norfolk, was evidence of authority, and that the reservation in the letter addressed by him to the auctioneer, was only to operate if the vessel should be saved, and be put in a situation to proceed on the voyage insured.
Mr Justice THOMPSON delivered the opinion of the Court.