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U.S. Supreme Court

Connecticut Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Spratley, 172 U.S. 602 (1899)

Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Spratley

No. 183

Submitted January 3, 1899

Decided January 30, 1899

172 U.S. 602


In a suit in a state court against a foreign corporation where no property of the corporation is within the state, and the judgment sought is a personal one, it is material to ascertain whether the corporation is doing

Page 172 U. S. 603

business within the state, and if so, the service of process must be upon some agent in the state so far representing it that he may properly be held in law its agent to receive such process in its behalf.

A foreign insurance company which has been doing business within a state through its agents does not cease to do business therein when it withdraws its agent and ceases to obtain or ask for new risks or obtain new policies, while at the same time its old policies continue in force, and the premiums thereon are paid by the policyholders to an agent residing in another state who was once the agent in the state where the policyholders reside.

On the facts stated in the opinion of the Court, it is held that the law implies, from the appointment and authority of the agent of the plaintiff in error, the power to receive in Tennessee service of process against the company.

If it appears that there is a law of the state in respect to the service of process upon foreign corporations, and that the character of an agency of a foreign corporation is such as to render it fair, reasonable and just to imply an authority on the part of the agent to receive service, the law will, and ought to, draw such an inference and imply such authority, and service under such circumstances and upon an agent of that character is sufficient.

When the Legislature of Tennessee, under the Act of March 22, 1876, permitted the plaintiff in error, a foreign corporation, to do business within the state on appointing an agent therein upon whom process might be served, and when, in pursuance of such provisions, the company entered the state and appointed the agent, no contract was thereby created which would prevent the state from thereafter passing another statute in regard to service of process, and making such statute applicable to all foreign corporations already doing business within the state.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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