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Western Massachusetts Inusrance Company v. Same

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

79 U.S. 201

Western Massachusetts Inusrance Company  v.  Same

In which the controlling question was the same as in the case just reported-a question which the court said that they did not propose to reconsider. This second case had been adjudged below, before the other one, and not on a finding of facts by the court, but on a verdict by a jury; the issues of fact being submitted to it under instructions from the court.

In this second case the policy provided that the loss or damage should be estimated according to the true and actual cash value of the said property 'at the time the fire should happen;' and evidence of the value of the steamer before the collision took place having been offered by the owners of the steamer, the insurance company objected to it, and on their objection it was excluded.

Evidence was allowed to be given against the defendants' objection, to show how much it cost to raise the steamer, and $22,500 were allowed; the value of the wreck when recovered.

The plaintiff based his estimate of damages upon the cost of repairing and restoring the vessel to her former condition, exclusive of the amount properly chargeable to the collision.

The judge charged, that the main question for the jury to determine was whether the loss sustained by the plaintiffs was the natural, necessary, and inevitable consequence of the fire. Then, after referring to the facts as proved, he added:

'The question is, would the steamer have gone to the bottom but for the fire? This is a vital question, and must be decided by the jury before the plaintiff can recover. You will say, in view of the evidence, whether she would have gone to the bottom or only settled down to her promenade deck and remained suspended in the water but for the effect produced by the fire. If she would not have sunk but only settled in the water to the promenade deck, except for the effect of the fire in reducing her floating capacity, then the plaintiffs are entitled to recover.'

As to the damages, after stating the plaintiffs' base of estimate, he said:

'You will determine upon the evidence whether in your judgment the repairs that were put upon her enhanced her value beyond her cash value before the commencement of the fire. If they did, you will deduct from the damage you find proved a sum equal to such increase of value.'

The jury found for the plaintiffs, and judgment went accordingly.

The case was argued by the same counsel as the preceding one; the objection by the counsel of the insurance company, plaintiffs in error, being to the charge on the main question, to the instruction as to damages and on the admission of the evidence to show how much it cost to raise the steamer, which the learned counsel contended that the defendants could not in any event be liable for, the rule of damages being fixed in the policy.

Mr. Justice STRONG 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).