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MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY v. HILL

April 4, 1904

MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
HILL



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, McKenna, Holmes, Day; Peckham took no part in the consideration and decision of this case.

Author: Brewer

[ 193 U.S. Page 553]

 MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

A preliminary matter is this: When the case was here before we held that upon the record there was disclosed an abandonment of the insurance contract, by both the insured and the beneficiaries, and on that ground the judgment was reversed. It is now contended that "the only question left open by the mandate of this court was a submission of this question;" that our decision was substantially an adjudication that the plaintiffs had a right to recover unless it was shown that there had been an abandonment of the insurance contract, and that upon this trial it was shown that there had been no such abandonment, the insured having always expressed a wish to continue the policy, the beneficiary named in the policy having died before the second premium became due, and her children, who became entitled thereafter as beneficiaries, being minors and in actual ignorance of its existence. That decision was based upon the averments of the pleadings, and these pleadings were amended after the judgment was reversed and the case returned to the trial court. Clearly the contention of the plaintiffs is not sustainable. When a case is presented to an appellate court it is not obliged to consider and decide all the questions then suggested or which may be supposed likely to arise in the further progress of the litigation. If it finds that in one respect an error has been committed so substantial as to require a reversal of the judgment, it may order a reversal without entering into any inquiry or determination of other questions. While undoubtedly an affirmance of a judgment is to be considered an adjudication by the appellate court that none of the claims of error are well founded -- even though all are not specifically referred to in the opinion -- yet no such conclusion follows in case of a reversal. It is impossible to foretell what shape the second trial may take or what questions may then be presented. Hence the rule is that a judgment of reversal is not necessarily an adjudication by the appellate

[ 193 U.S. Page 554]

     court of any other than the questions in terms discussed and decided. An actual decision of any question settles the law in respect thereto for future action in the case. Here, after one judgment on the pleadings had been set aside, on amended pleadings a trial was had, quite a volume of testimony presented and a second judgment entered. That judgment is now before us for review, and all questions which appear upon the record and have not already been decided are open for consideration.

Previous decisions in kindred cases have established these propositions: First, the State of Washington was the place of the contract. Equitable Life Assurance Society v. Clements, 140 U.S. 226, 232; Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York v. Cohen, 179 U.S. 262. Second, the statutory provision of the State of New York in reference to forfeitures has no extra-territorial effect, and does not of itself apply to contracts made by a New York company outside of that State. Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York v. Cohen, supra. Third, parties contracting outside of the State of New York may by agreement incorporate into the contract the laws of that State and make its provisions controlling upon both parties, provided such provisions do not conflict with the law or public policy of the State in which the contract is made. Equitable Life Assurance Society v. Clements, supra; Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York v. Cohen, supra. If it were necessary, other cases from this and state courts might be cited in support of these propositions. Applying them, it follows that, as Washington was the place of the contract, the laws of that State control its terms and obligations, unless the parties thereto have stipulated for some other laws. Such a stipulation, it is insisted, is found in this contract. In determining the effect of such a stipulation it must be borne in mind that the applicability of other laws than those of the State of the place of contract is a matter of agreement, and that the agreement may select laws and also limit the extent of their applicability. The case is precisely like one in which

[ 193 U.S. Page 555]

     the parties, without mentioning laws or State, stipulate that the contract shall be determined in accordance with certain specified rules.

This insurance policy contains these recitals:

"In consideration of the application for this policy, which is hereby made a part of this contract, the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York promises to pay at its home office in the city of New York, unto Ellen Kellogg Hill, wife of George Dana Hill, of Seattle, in the county of King, Washington Territory, for her sole use, if living, in conformity with the statute, and if not living, to such of the children of their bodies as shall be living at the death of the said wife, or to their guardian for their use, twenty thousand dollars; upon acceptance of satisfactory proofs at its said office, of the death of the said George Dana Hill during the continuance of this policy, upon the following condition; and subject to the provisions, requirements, and benefits stated on the back of this policy, which are hereby referred to and made part thereof;

"The annual premium of eight hundred and fourteen dollars and -- cents shall be paid in advance on the delivery of this policy, and thereafter to the company at its home office in the city of New York, on the twenty-ninth day of April in every year during the continuance of this contract.

Payment of premiums. -- Each premium is due and payable at the home office of the company in the city of New York; but will be accepted elsewhere when duly made in exchange for the company's receipt, signed by the president or secretary. Notice that each and every such payment is due at the date named in the policy, is given and accepted by the delivery and ...


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