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U.S. Supreme Court

Sovereign Camp of Woodmen of the World v. Bolin, 305 U.S. 66 (1938)

Sovereign Camp of the Woodmen of the World v. Bolin

No. 31

Argued October 21, 1938

Decided November 7, 1938

305 U.S. 66


1. A fraternal beneficiary association of Nebraska issued and delivered in Missouri a certificate of membership requiring the member to pay dues and assessments and providing for benefits to accrue upon his death. Pursuant to a bylaw of the association, the certificate purported to exempt the member from further dues and assessments after twenty years, but this exemption was afterwards adjudged by the Supreme Court of Nebraska, in a class suit brought by the holder of a similar certificate, to be ultra vires and void. In an action in Missouri by beneficiaries named in the certificate first-mentioned, held:

(1) That the certificate was not a mere contract to be construed and enforced according to the laws of the State where it was delivered. Entry into the society was entry into a complex and abiding relation, and the rights of membership are governed by the law of the incorporation. Another State, wherein the certificate of membership was issued, cannot attach to membership, rights against the society which are refused by the law of the domicil. P. 305 U. S. 75.

Page 305 U. S. 67

(2) The question whether the association was estopped to plead ultra vires was not to be determined by the Missouri law of old line insurance companies. P. 305 U. S. 76.

(3) The judgment of the Nebraska court, in the class suit, determined that the association lacked power to issue certificates exempt from dues and assessments after twenty years, and that it was not estopped to plead ultra vires in that regard. P. 305 U. S. 78.

(4) The Missouri court, by enforcing the certificate, failed to give full faith and credit to the association's charter embodied in the statutes of Nebraska as interpreted by its highest court. P. 79.

2. In a class suit by a member of a beneficiary association to determine the power of the association to issue beneficial membership certificates exempt from dues and assessments after twenty years, the association represents all its members, and stands in judgment for them, and the judgment is conclusive upon all the members of the association with respect to all rights, questions, or facts therein determined. P. 305 U. S. 78.

112 S.W.2d 582, 592, reversed.

Certiorari, 304 U.S. 557, to review the affirmance of a judgment against the present petitioner in an action on a fraternal beneficial certificate. The Supreme Court of the State would not entertain an appeal.

Page 305 U. S. 72

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