courts no doubt inclines towards this view. Yet policies of insurance and bills of exchange are frequently classed together. Says Skinner’s Reports, “though neither of them are specialties, yet they are of great credit, and much for the support, conveniency, and advance of trade.” Justice Buller, in Master v. Miller, upon a question in the law of bills of exchange, says, in regard to the non-assignability of a chose in action: “I can find no instance in which the objection has prevailed in a mercantile case; and in the two instances most universally in use it undoubtedly does not hold, that is, in the cases of bills of exchange and policies of insurance. The first is the present case, and bills are assignable by the custom of merchants; so in the case of policies of insurance, till the late act was made requiring the name of the person interested to be inserted in the policy, the constant course was to make the policy in the name of the broker, and yet the owner of the goods maintained an action upon it.”
Policies of insurance are sometimes made payable to bearer or to order; and this would seem to point very strongly toward their being negotiable. Mr. Phillips says, in his Treatise on the Law of Insurance: “A marine policy of insurance on goods seems to be precisely similar to a bill of lading as to its assignableness, provided it imports on its face a responsibility directly to the assignee of the goods, and I accordingly venture to state it as the better doctrine that the interest in a marine policy, purporting on its face to insure the owner of the goods, whoever he may be, is assignable with the goods to the effect of giving the assignee a right to make demand and bring suits upon it in his own name. And the same doctrine is, I think, applicable to a similar policy upon a vessel or one against fire upon land.” Mr. Duer is of opinion that insurance policies, like bills of exchange, are negotiable, and that a bona fide purchaser for value will take the policy, subject, to be sure, to every legal defence which would be available against the original insured, but free from all equities existing between the original insured and the underwriter. In fact, a continental writer goes so far as to say
that policies are in their nature negotiable without special words
- Skinner R. 55.
- 4 T.R. 320.
- Pp. 53 and 54, 5th ed.
- 2 Duer, Ins. 52.