AMERICAN LIFE INS. CO. V. STEWART, 300 U. S. 203 (1937)

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U.S. Supreme Court

American Life Ins. Co. v. Stewart, 300 U.S. 203 (1937)

American Life Ins. Co. v. Stewart

No. 440

Argued January 15, 1937

Decided February 1, 1937*

300 U.S. 203


1. Fraud in the procurement of insurance is provable as a defense in an action at law upon the policy. P. 300 U. S. 212.

2. A "contest," within the purview of a provision of a life insurance policy that it shall be incontestable after a period defined, has generally been held to mean a present contest in a court, not a notice of repudiation or of a contest to be waged thereafter. P. 300 U. S. 212.

3. No action at law having been brought on the policy, an insurer whose attack upon the ground of fraud is endangered by the running of the time limited by the policy for contest may sue in equity for cancellation. P. 300 U. S. 212.

Page 300 U. S. 204

In the present cases, the period allowed for contest was two years from the date of the two policies. The assurance Company's suits for cancellation were brought when six months and ten days of that period had passed.

4. Where equity can give relief, plaintiff ought not to be compelled to speculate upon his chance of obtaining relief at law, or to incur the danger that witnesses may disappear and evidence be lost if he waits to be sued by his antagonist. P. 300 U. S. 213.

5. A remedy at law does not exclude one in equity unless it is equally prompt and certain and in other ways efficient. P. 300 U. S. 214.

6. A remedy at law is not adequate if its adequacy depends upon the will of the opposing party. P. 300 U. S. 214.

7. Equitable jurisdiction existing at the filing of the bill is not destroyed by the subsequent availability of an adequate legal remedy. P. 300 U. S. 215.

In these cases, the equity jurisdiction which attached on the filing of the bills by the Insurance Company was not lost when actions on the policies were brought in the same court; though the court, if requested, might have tried the law suits first.

80 F.2d 600, 85 id. 791, reversed.

Certiorari, 299 U.S. 536, to review the reversal of decrees for the cancellation and surrender of policies of life insurance.

Page 300 U. S. 210

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