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U.S. Supreme Court

Canada Sugar Refining Co. v. Insurance Co., 175 U.S. 609 (1900)

Canada Sugar Refining Company v.

Insurance Company of North America

No. 69

Argued October 26, 1899

Decided January 8, 1900

175 U.S. 609


This is a case where the owners of a cargo of sugar had insured the same in the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company, on and before April 29, 1893, at and for the sum of $166,145, and had, on April 29, 1893, insured the

Page 175 U. S. 610

profits on the cargo against total loss only in the sum of $15,000 in the Insurance Company of North America. On July 6, 1893, the ship, while on her voyage, stranded on the coast of Newfoundland, became a total loss, and the voyage came to an end. The master, representing all concerned, contracted with local fishermen to give them one-half of the sugar they could save. On July 8, 1893, the insurers of the cargo, having been notified of the disaster, took charge and possession of the remnants of the cargo, and purchased from the salvors the portion which, under the agreement with the master, was theirs. The sugar was then transported by a vessel chartered by the insurers, and on their account, to Montreal. The value of the sugar that reached Montreal was about $20,000, and the expenses, salvage charges and the additional freight from Newfoundland to Montreal, paid by the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company, exceeded $11,000. The insurers on the cargo settled with the retaining company as for a total loss under its policy for $166,145, and the sugar saved was turned over to the refining company in part settlement of that sum on the basis of the average pro rata policy valuation. The value of the entire cargo on April 29, 1893, when the insurance on profits was effected, was alleged in the libel and admitted in the answer to have been about $181,000. The insurance company contested its liability upon the policy on profits on the ground chiefly that the receipt by the libellant of a portion of the sugars, viz., about $20,000 in value, prevented the loss from being total within the terms of the policy.


(1) That the saved remnants of the sugar were taken exclusive possession of by the agents of the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company, were by them forwarded on account of that company to Montreal, and were finally turned over to the Canada Sugar Refining Company at an agreed valuation, in part payment of the claim of the latter for total loss of cargo.

(2) That the facts disclose an actual abandonment by the Canada Sugar Refining Company, to the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company, and the acceptance by the latter of such abandonment. Owing to the prompt action of the insurance company in taking charge and control of the cargo and in adopting the agreement of the master with the salvors, it was not necessary for the assured to go through with all the usual forms of an abandonment. Neither of the parties seems to have acted upon the supposition that any other or more formal act of abandonment was necessary.

(3) That the libellant is entitled to recover the amount of the profits as valued in the policy.

The Canada Sugar Refining Company, a Canadian corporation, on November 27, 1894, filed a libel and complaint in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York against the Insurance Company of

Page 175 U. S. 611

North America, a Pennsylvania corporation, to recover insurance effected by the libellant with the respondent in the amount of $15,000 on profits on a cargo of sugar shipped on board the British ship John E. Sayre at and from Iloilo to Montreal, Canada. The respondent answered, the cause came on to be heard upon the pleadings, proceedings, and proofs, and resulted, June 15, 1897, in a decree in favor of the libellant for the full amount of the insurance, with interest and costs. The case was taken on appeal to the United States circuit court of appeals, where, on April 23, 1893, a final decree was entered reversing the decree of the district court, and ordering that the libel be dismissed, with costs in both courts to the appellant.

On the libellant's petition, on May 10, 1898, a writ of certiorari was granted under which the cause and the record and proceedings therein were removed into this Court.

The material facts of the case were as follows:

On April 29, 1893, the respondent company insured for the libellant's benefit:

"$15,000 on profits on cargo sugar, against total loss only, valued at sum insured; shipped on board the British ship John E. Sayre at and from Iloilo to Montreal."

At that time, the was at sea prosecuting the voyage. The libellant had 2,462 tons of sugars on board of her, amounting in value to $181,000, and had just completed insurance of the sugars to the amount of $166,145 in the Atlantic Mutual, of which insurance the respondent was informed before its insurance on profits was made. In July following, the Sayre stranded on the coast of Newfoundland, and all the cargo was lost excepting about 300 tons, which was saved by the aid of salvors, of which one-half went to them as their agreed compensation. The agreement was originally made by the master soon after the stranding, but a few days afterwards, the agent of the Atlantic Mutual appeared, to whom the master turned over the salvage operations. He confirmed the previous agreement with the salvors, reimbursed to the master the expenses already incurred by him, and thenceforward, with the libellant's consent and the defendant's

Page 175 U. S. 612

knowledge and acquiescence, took the complete control and disposition of the cargo. The agent eventually bought from the salvors the moieties of the sugars allotted to them under the agreement, and then shipped all the sugar saved to the order of the insurers to Montreal. The value of all the sugar that reached Montreal was about $20,000, and the expenses and salvage charges paid by the Atlantic Mutual thereon, and the additional freight to Montreal, exceeded $11,000, so that out of the whole cargo worth $181,000, less than $9,000 net was saved. The Atlantic Mutual settled with the libellant as for a total loss, under its policy of $166,145, and it turned over the sugars saved in part settlement of that sum, on about the basis of the average pro rata policy valuation. The respondent contested its liability upon the policy on profits on the ground chiefly that the receipt by the libellant of a portion of the sugars -- viz., about $20,000 in value -- prevents the loss from being "total" within the terms of its policy.

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