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Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias of the World v. Kalinski

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

163 U.S. 289

Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias of the World  v.  Kalinski

This was an action originally begun in the civil district court of the parish of Orleans, in the state of Louisiana, by the defendant in error, Eugenie Kalinski, to recover of the Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias of the World (as association incorporated under an act of congress, and domiciled in Washington) the amount of a certain certificate of membership, whereby the defendant contracted and bound itself to pay to petitioner, on the death of her husband, Achille Kalinski, the sum of $3,000; the said certificate being in effect a life insurance policy.

The case was removed, upon the petition of the defendant, to the circuit court of the United States for the Eastern district of Louisiana, upon an allegation that the defendant was created by and organized under an act of congress approved May 5, 1870; that it was domiciled in Washington, and that the controversy arose under and was to be determined by such act of congress; that the suit was based upon a beneficial or life certificate issued under authority of such act of congress, and the defense to said suit arose under the laws of the United States.

The answer admitted that during his lifetime the said Achille Kalinski became a member of the endowment rank of the order of Knights of Pythias, in section 363 thereof, paid the initiation fee, and that there was issued to him the certificate mentioned in the petition. But it denied that Kalinski, during his lifetime, complied with the obligations imposed upon him under such certificate, and averred that, under the terms of his application for membership in said endowment rank, and in the said certificate, and the constitution and by-laws of said endowment rank, Knights of Pythias of the World, all being and forming parts of the contracts between them, it was provided that any failure or neglect on the part of said Kalinski to pay assessments or dues, as provided by the laws of the rank or order, should work a forfeiture of all his rights, and the rights of his heirs and beneficiaries, in the premises, to all benefits and privileges accruing to members of said rank; that, by said laws, it was, among other things, especially provided that, when a member of the endowment rank became in arrears to his lodge for an amount equal to one year's dues, he should forfeit his membership in the endowment rank, and his endowment certificate should thereupon become void.

The answer further averred that at the time of his death, May 24, 1891, Kalinski was in arrears for, owed, and was indebted to Syracuse Lodge, No. 50, of said order, of which he was a member or to which he belonged, in an amount in excess of one year's dues, and that he had at the time of his death forfeited his membership in the said section and rank, and the said certificate became null and void. It further averred that 'after being so in arrears and the forfeiture of all rights as aforesaid, of which forfeiture, however, your respondent was then, without its fault or negligence, unaware, said Kalinski paid certain assessments under such certificate,' but that, as soon as made aware of the forfeiture heretofore mentioned, respondent made legal tender to the plaintiff of the amount of such assessments so paid, and that she refused the same.

In a supplemental answer, defendant deposited in court, and tendered back to plaintiff, the amount of assessments so paid, namely, $16.20, with 5 per cent interest thereon fron April 1, 1891, to date.

The case came on for trial before the district judge and a jury, was tried twice, and resulted each time in a verdict and judgment for plaintiff for the full amount of her certif cate or policy, and, upon writ of error to the circuit court of appeals, that judgment was affirmed (6 C. C. A. 373, 57 Fed. 348), whereupon defendant sued a writ of error from this court.

J. Zach Spearing, for plaintiff in error.

M. Marks, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


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).