ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois. The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Clifford delivered the opinion of the court.
Mr. Lawrence Proudfoot for the plaintiff in error.
Mr. Robert Hervey, contra.
Policies of fire insurance are contracts whereby the insurers undertake for a stipulated sum to indemnify the insured against loss or damage by fire, in respect to the property covered by the policy, during the prescribed period of time, to an amount not exceeding the sum specified in the written contract. Angell, Fire and Life Ins. 43.
Insurance was effected by the plaintiffs, on the 9th of May, 1870, in the company of the corporation defendant for the term of one year, against loss or damage by fire, to the amount of $3,000, covering the ten buildings therein described, each of which being insured in the sum of $300.
It appears by the bill of exceptions that the policy was in the usual form of policies issued by the defendant, and that it provided that 'if the interest of the assured in the property be any other than the entire, unconditional, and sole ownership of the property for the use and benefit of the assured, or if the buildings insured stand on leased ground, it must be so represented to the company, and be so expressed in the written part of the policy, otherwise the policy shall be void.'
Two other stipulations are contained in the policy, which it is important to notice: 1. That 'the use of general terms, or any thing less than a distinct specific agreement clearly expressed and indorsed on the policy, shall not be construed as a waiver of any printed or written condition or restriction therein.' 2. That the policy is made and accepted in reference to the foregoing terms and conditions, which are declared to be a part of the contract, and may be used and resorted to in order to determine the rights and obligations of the parties to the policy.
Nothing was expressed in the written part of the policy indicating or tending to indicate that the interest of the insured in the property purporting to be insured was any other than the entire, unconditional, and sole ownership of such property for the use and benefit of the insured, or indicating or tending to indicate that the buildings insured stood on leased ground.
Payment of the alleged loss being refused, the plaintiffs instituted the present suit in the State court, which was subsequently removed into the Circuit Court of the same district, the parties agreeing that the plaintiffs might prove any claim they have under the common counts as if they should add special counts, and that the defendants might prove any defence they have to the action under the general issue the same as if it was set up in a special plea.
Pursuant to that stipulation, the parties went to trial; and the verdict and judgment were for the plaintiffs in the sum of $3,730 damages, with costs of suit. Exceptions were taken by the defendants to the charge of the court; and they sued out a writ of error, and removed the cause into this court.
Neither title-deeds nor evidence of the same was introduced by the plaintiffs; but the defendant admitted at the trial that 'the plaintiffs were owners in fee of the land on which the buildings insured stood' at the time of the fire, as appears by the bill of exceptions. Proofs were introduced by the plaintiffs, admitted by the defendant to be in due form, which showed that the buildings described in the policy were, on Dec. 31, 1870, destroyed by fire, and that the property insured belonged to the plaintiffs, subject to the lease mentioned in the proofs so introduced, to which more particular reference will presently be made. Other evidence was introduced by the plaintiffs, but the defendant offered no evidence; and the court directed the jury to return a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs for the amount of the policy, with interest from the expiration of sixty d ys subsequent to the time the proof of loss was exhibited.
Seasonable exceptions were filed to the charge of the court, upon the ground that the lease mentioned in the proofs of loss show that the plaintiffs were not at the time of the loss the entire, unconditional, and sole owners of the property for their own use and benefit.
Sufficient appears to show that the fee-simple title of the land was in the plaintiffs, and that they were the entire owners of the property destroyed, subject to the lease mentioned in the proofs of loss; and it was admitted by the defendant that the fire caused a total loss of the property, and that the value of the buildings exceeded the amount of the insurance.
By the terms of the lease, referred to in the proofs of loss, it appears that the instrument was for a term of ten years, from May 1, 1868, to May 1, 1878, and that it covered the land on which the insured buildings stood, and the buildings and improvements to be built thereon, having been executed before the buildings were erected, at a rental of ...