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U.S. Supreme Court

Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Hill, 193 U.S. 551 (1904)

Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Hill

No. 166

Argued March 1-2, 1904

Decided April 4, 1904

193 U.S. 551


A judgment of reversal is not necessarily an adjudication by the appellate court of any other than the questions in terms discussed and decided.

The following propositions have been established by prior decisions of this Court in regard to the construction of policies of life insurance issued in other states by New York companies:

1. The state where the application is made, the first premium paid by and the policy delivered to the assured, is the place of contract.

2. The statutory provision of the New York in reference to forfeitures has no extraterritorial effect, and does not of itself apply to contracts made by a New York company outside of the state.

3. Parties contracting outside of a state may by agreement incorporate into the contract the laws of that state and make its provisions controlling on both parties, provided such provisions do not conflict with the law or public policy of the state in which the contract is made.

Where a contract contains a stipulation that it shall be construed to have been made in New York without referring to the law of that state requiring notice, and also contains another stipulation by which the assured expressly waives all further notice required by any statute, the latter stipulation is paramount, and to that extent limits the applicability of the New York law in reference to notice to policyholders.

On April 28, 1886, George D. Hill at Seattle, Washington, signed a written application to the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York (hereinafter called the insurance company) for a policy of $20,000. The application was forwarded to the home office. The insurance company accepted the application, executed a policy, and forwarded it to its local agent at Seattle, who there, on June 12, 1886, received the first premium and delivered the policy to Hill. The beneficiary named in the policy was Ellen K. Hill, the wife of the applicant. She died on February 14, 1887, leaving four children, the present defendants in error. A premium receipt for the second annual premium was, in 1887, forwarded to the local agent

Page 193 U. S. 552

at Seattle, presented by him to Hill, and not paid. No subsequent premiums were paid, and on December 4, 1890, Hill died.

Thereafter this action was commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Washington. The contention of the plaintiffs is that, although the annual premiums for 1887, 1888, 1889, and 1890 had not been paid, the insurance company was nevertheless indebted to them for the full amount of the policy and interest by reason of the fact that it had failed to give the notice of forfeiture prescribed by chapter 341, Laws 1876, as amended by chapter 321, Laws 1877, of the State of New York. The complaint set out a copy of the policy, alleged the payment of the first annual premium, the death of the insured, and the relationship of the plaintiffs to the beneficiary. The defendant relied upon the nonpayment of the premiums other than the first, and an abandonment of the contract. A demurrer to these defenses was sustained, and a judgment entered for the plaintiffs, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 97 F.2d 3. A writ of certiorari was issued by this Court. 178 U.S. 683, the judgment reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. 178 U. S. 178 U.S. 347. An amended answer and a replication were then filed by leave of the circuit court. A trial was had before the court and a jury which resulted in a verdict and judgment for the plaintiffs. This judgment was affirmed by the court of appeals, 118 F.7d 8, and the case was again brought here on certiorari. 188 U.S. 742.

Page 193 U. S. 553

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