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03/09/61 Jannenga, v. Nationwide Life Ins. Co.

March 9, 1961

JANNENGA, APPELLANT

v.

NATIONWIDE LIFE INS. CO., APPELLEE

IN SO DOING, THE THIRD CIRCUIT HAS RELIED UPON PECHEUR LOZENGE CO

v.

NATIONAL CANDY CO ., 315 U.S. 666 (1942).



Before WILBUR K. MILLER, C. J., and WASHINGTON and BURGER, C. J.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT. 1961.CDC.29

March 9, 1961.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BURGER

BURGER, C. J.: Appellant's daughter was born March 25, 1956, and on March 27, 1956, appellant made application to appellee Nationwide for insurance on her life. After her death on June 26, 1957, appellant sued for the sums due under the policy. Appellee defended on the ground that appellant had falsely answered questions in the application with respect to other insurance applications pending or contemplated on the life of the insured. The evidence showed that appellant had attended law school and worked as an insurance agent, that he started inquiring about insurance on the life of his daughter several months before she was born, and that two days after her birth he applied to appellee Nationwide for $10,000 insurance on her life. The application which he signed asked whether any other insurance on the child was pending or contemplated, to which the answer "none" appeared. But appellant's own evidence showed that he had applied the previous day to another company for $5,000 life insurance on the life of his daughter, and that an application for $10,000 insurance on her life was made with yet another company the same day as the Nationwide application. One month later he applied to a fourth company for $10,000 in life insurance on his daughter's life. In none of these applications did he disclose the pendency of applications with the other companies, although each application called for that information. Appellant testified that each of the life insurance agents told him that the questions referred only to delivered policies, and that the negative answer in the Nationwide application was entered by the agent after such explanation. Ultimately appellant obtained $35,000 insurance on the life of his infant daughter. At the close of appellant's case the District Court directed a verdict for the appellee on the ground of material misrepresentation in the application.

The questions presented here are:

(1) Was the trial court bound to notice and apply Ohio or Maryland law, although that law was not relied on by appellant?

(2) If not, were the misrepresentations a bar to recovery on the contract of insurance under the law of the District of Columbia?

(1)

At the trial appellant's counsel relied upon "our own District of Columbia opinions." Although he cited an Illinois case on a point of general law, he did not refer to the case law or statutes of Ohio or Maryland in his argument. Nevertheless, appellant now contents that the final act necessary to completion of the contract took place in Ohio and that the trial court should have applied an Ohio statute; on trial he emphasized that the contract took effect when the application was signed in Maryland. In the alternative he urges that the contract was made in Maryland, and in either case that the trial court erred in applying local law. *fn1

This court has stated that federal courts "will take judicial notice of the law of the several states . . . whether pleaded or not . . . ." Boland v. Love, 95 U.S. App. D.C. 337, 340, 222 F.2d 27, 31 (1955). Accord, Moore v. Pywell, 29 App. D.C. 312 (1907). And in an oft quoted passage, the Supreme Court said that

"the law of any State of Union, whether depending upon statutes or upon judicial opinions, is a matter of which the courts of the United States are bound to take judicial notice, without plea or proof." Lamar v. Micou, 114 U.S. 218, 223 (1885).

The Third Circuit has taken the view that this means that

"the appropriate law must be applied in each case and upon a failure to do so appellate courts should remand the cause to the trial court to afford it opportunity to apply the appropriate law, even if the question was not raised in the court below." United States v. Certain Parcels of Land, 144 F.2d 626, 630 (3d Cir. 1944). See also Parkway Baking Co. v. Freihofer Baking Co ., 255 F.2d 641 (3d Cir. 1958).

In the Pecheur case plaintiff sued for trademark infringement. The trial court, proceeding on the theory that this was a suit under the Trademark Act, rendered judgment for plaintiff. On appeal the Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court agreed that no cause of action was stated under the Trademark or Copyright statutes, but remanded to the ...


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