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Riddlesbarger v. Hartford Insurance Company

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

74 U.S. 386

Riddlesbarger  v.  Hartford Insurance Company

ERROR to the Circuit Court for Missouri.

This was an action against the Hartford Insurance Company, upon a policy of insurance in the sum of five thousand dollars, issued by the said company, a corporation created under the laws of Connecticut, to the plaintiff, upon a brick building, belonging to him, situated in Kansas City, in the State of Missouri. The policy bore date on the first of June, 1861, and was for one year. The building was destroyed by fire in March, 1862, and in June following the plaintiff brought an action for the loss sustained in the Kansas City Court of Common Pleas, in the county of Jackson in that State. To this action the defendant appeared and answered to the merits, and the cause continued in that court until June, 1864, when it was dismissed by the plaintiff. Within one year after this dismissal the present action was commenced in the Court of Common Pleas in the County of St. Louis, from which it was transferred to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Missouri.

The policy contained the following condition:

'That no suit or action of any kind against said company for the recovery of any claim upon, under, or by virtue of the said policy shall be sustainable in any court of law or chancery, unless such suit or action shall be commenced within the term of twelve months next after the loss or damage shall occur, and in case any suit or action shall be commenced against said company after the expiration of twelve months next after such loss or damage shall have occurred, the lapse of time shall be taken and deemed as conclusive evidence against the validity of such claim thereby so attempted to be enforced.'

To the present action the defendant pleaded this condition. The plaintiff replied the commencement of the first action in the Kansas City Court of Common Pleas within the year stipulated in the condition, and the commencement of the present action within one year after the dismissal of that action. To the replication the defendant demurred.

The statute of limitations of Missouri, after prescribing various periods of limitation for different actions, provides that if in any action commenced within the periods mentioned, the plaintiff shall 'suffer a nonsuit,' he may commence a new action within one year afterwards.

The Circuit Court sustained the demurrer, and rendered final judgment thereon for the defendant, and the plaintiff brought the case here by writ of error.

Mr. James Hughes, for the plaintiff in error.

I. Parties cannot by a contract agree upon a limitation different from the statutes within which suit shall be brought, or the right to sue be barred. This would be in conflict with the law and its policy. The point is so expressly ruled by McLean, J., [1] and by the Supreme Court of Indiana which followed him. [2]


^1  French et al. v. Lafayette Insurance Company, 5 McLean, 463.

^2  Eagle Insurance Company v. Lafayette Insurance Company, 9 Indiana, 443.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).