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Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company v. Sea

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

88 U.S. 158

Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company  v.  Sea

ERROR to the Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Sidney Sea sued the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company upon a policy of insurance. On the trial a jury was waived, and the cause submitted to the court, under the provisions of the act of March 5, 1865. [1] The plea was the general issue, with a stipulation by the parties that the defendant might offer any and every matter in evidence under it, with the like effect as though such matter had been specially pleaded. There was a general finding for the plaintiff, and judgment accordingly.

At the trial a bill of exceptions was taken, which embodied all the evidence. Several exceptions were entered to the rulings of the court upon the admission of testimony, but no one of these rulings was assigned here for error.

At the close of the testimony the defendant made the following objections to the finding of the issues for the plaintiff:

1. That the plaintiff's title was a conditional or equitable title, and not an absolute one, at the time the policy was issued, and that there was such a concealment of the kind of title he possessed as to vitiate the policy.

2. That the conveyance of one of the houses and lots to Mrs. Sea, wife of the plaintiff, after the making of the policy and before the loss, without the consent or knowledge of the defendant, vitiated the policy.

3. That in the proofs the plaintiff had stated falsely that the property was his, when in fact one of the houses and lots belonged to his wife, and thereby the policy was rendered void. And the defendant asserted, as evidence of the fraud, that the plaintiff, in sending a copy of the contract to the defendant, had omitted from the copy sent the indorsement or memorandum on it showing that one lot had been transferred to Mrs. Sea.

4. That immediately after the fire, notice of the loss was not given, as required by the policy, to the defendant.

But the court held and decided—

1. That the plaintiff had an insurable interest in the property, notwithstanding he had not the absolute title, and that there was no such concealment of his actual interest or title as to vitiate the policy.

2. That however it might be as to the lot and building actually conveyed to Mrs. Sea, the fact of such conveyance did not render invalid the policy of insurance as to the other houses, though not communicated to the defendant.

3. That it did not appear from the evidence that in his proofs of loss the plaintiff had wilfully or intentionally falsely stated the title or his interest in the property; that he might have regarded it all as his, in one sense, though the title to one lot was in his wife.

4. That the company had waived any right it might originally have had to insist upon the fact that notice in writing of loss was not immediately communicated to the company.

At the end of the bill of exceptions, and immediately preceding the signature of the judge, are the words 'exceptions allowed,' without anything to indicate specially what was excepted to.

It was assigned for error that the court erred in ruling upon each and all of the four points made upon the trial, as stated above.

Mr. W. H. Swift, for the plaintiff in error; Messrs. H. G. Spafford, S. V. Niles, and E. Totten, contra.

The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  13 Stat. at Large, 501.

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).