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U.S. Supreme Court

Insurance Company v. Davis, 95 U.S. 425 (1877)

Insurance Company v. Davis

95 U.S. 425


1. New York Life Insurance Company v. Statham, 98 U. S. 24, reaffirmed.

2. Where, as in this case, the legal effect of a policy of insurance is that the premiums shall be paid to the company at its domicile, the endorsement on the margin of the instrument, that "all receipts for premiums paid at agencies are to be signed by the president or actuary" of the company, is not an agreement on its part to vary the condition of the contract, and to make any particular agency the legal place of payment, but is merely a notice to the assured that he must not pay to an agent, or at an agency, without getting a receipt signed by the president or actuary.

3. A resident of Virginia, who had been before the war a local agent of a Northern insurance company, refused to receive the renewal premium, due Dec. 2S, 1861, tendered him upon a policy of insurance upon the life of a resident of that state. His refusal was based upon the ground that he had received no renewal receipts from the company, without which he could not receive the premium, and that the money, if received, would be liable to confiscation by the Confederate government. The evidence further failed to show that the company had consented to his continuing to act as such agent during the war, or that he did so continue. Held that, waiving the consideration of any question in regard to the validity of an insurance upon the life of an alien enemy, such tender of payment did not bind the company.

4. The effect of a state of war upon the question of agency discussed.

Page 95 U. S. 426

This was an action on a policy of life insurance issued by the New York Life Insurance Company, a New York corporation, before the war upon the life of Sloman Davis, a citizen and resident of the State of Virginia. The policy contained the usual condition, to be void if the renewal premiums were not promptly paid. They were regularly paid until the beginning of the war. The last payment was made Dec. 28, 1860. The company, previous to the war, had an agent, A. B. Garland, residing in Petersburg, Va., where the assured also resided, and premiums on this policy were paid to him in the usual way, he giving receipts therefor, signed by the president and actuary, as provided on the margin of the policy, which were usually sent to the agent about thirty days in advance of the maturity of the premium. About a year after the war broke out, the agent entered the Confederate service as a major, and remained in that service until the close of the war.

Offer of payment of the premium next due was made to the agent in December, 1861, which he declined, alleging that he had received no receipts from the company, and that the money, if he did receive it, would be confiscated by the Confederate government. A similar offer was made to him after the close of the war, which he also declined. He testified that he refused to receive any premiums, had no communication with the company during the war, and after it terminated did not resume his agency.

Sloman Davis died in September, 1867.

The plaintiff below was assignee of the policy, and claimed to recover the amount thereof, $10,000, upon the ground that he was guilty of no laches, and that at the close of the war, the policy revived.

It is unnecessary to state in detail the proceedings at the trial. The plaintiff contended, and the judge instructed the jury in substance that they might infer from the evidence that the place of payment intended by the parties was at the residence of the plaintiff, and that, if the company did not furnish receipts to its agent, so that the premiums could be paid according to the terms of the policy, it was not the fault of the plaintiff, and if he was ready and offered to pay his

Page 95 U. S. 427

premium to the agent, there could be no forfeiture of the policy, if within reasonable time after the war he endeavored to pay his premiums, and the company refused to receive them. On the other hand, the defendant contended that the war put an end to the agency of Garland, and the offer to pay the premium to him was of no validity, and the failure to pay rendered the policy void. This view was rejected by the court, and a verdict was rendered for the amount of the policy, less the amount of certain premium notes which had been given by the assured.

Judgment was rendered upon the verdict, and the company then brought the case here.

Page 95 U. S. 428

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