CLAY V. SUN INS. OFFICE, LTD., 363 U. S. 207 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Clay v. Sun Ins. Office, Ltd., 363 U.S. 207 (1960)

Clay v. Sun Insurance Office, Limited

No. 349

Argued March 22-23, 1960

Decided June 13, 1960

363 U.S. 207


While a citizen and resident of Illinois, petitioner purchased there from respondent, an insurance company licensed to do business in Illinois and Florida, an insurance policy covering "all risks" of loss or damage to certain personal property having no fixed situs. After moving to Florida, petitioner sustained losses there on which respondent denied liability. More than 12 months after discovery of the losses, petitioner sued respondent in a Federal District Court in Florida, basing jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship. That Court awarded a judgment to petitioner after ruling that, (1) under Florida law, the losses were not excluded from "all risks" coverage if they were caused by deliberate acts of petitioner's wife, and (2) the suit was not barred by a provision in the policy that suit on any claim for loss must be brought within 12 months of discovery of the loss, apparently because a Florida statute forbade enforcement of such a clause. Without passing on these issues of local law, the Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that Florida could not, consistently with the requirements of due process, apply its statute to the "suits clause" of this contract made in Illinois, where such a clause is valid.

Held: the Court of Appeals should not have passed on the constitutional question without first passing on the two issues of local law, and not unless its decision on those issues made a decision on the constitutional question necessary. Pp. 363 U. S. 208-212.

265 F.2d 522, judgment vacated and cause remanded.

Page 363 U. S. 208

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