Nederland Life Insurance Company v. Meinert
Mrs. Meinert, the plaintiff below, filed in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Indiana her amended complaint, by leave of court, against the petitioner, the insurance company, to recover $5,000 on a certain policy of insurance for that sum on the life of her deceased husband, William Meinert. She obtained judgment on the trial before a judge without a jury, which was affirmed in the circuit court of appeals. 62 C. C. A. 377, 127 Fed. 651. This court allowed a writ of certiorari to review that judgment, and the case is now here upon the return to that writ.
The material facts are the following: The company, on the 5th day of March, 1896, issued the policy in suit in consideration of the payment of quarterly premiums of $25.25, each, on or before the 5th days of March, June, September, and December in each year for five years; after that the payments were to be $64.25 for the following fourteen years or until the previous death of the insured, should his death occur before the expiration of the specified period. Four quarterly payments of $25.25 each were made, the last one having been made on or before December 5, 1896. No other instalment of premium was ever paid. The assured died on the 24th day of March, 1900. Over three years and three months had passed, therefore, since the last payment of any premium. Meinert, up to the time of his death, lived at Evansville, Indiana.
On the 15th day of February, 1897, the company sent him by mail a written notice as follows: Nederland Life Insurance Co. (Ld.), established in Amsterdam (Holland), 1858. United States Branch, 874 Broadway, New York city.
Pursuant to chapter 690 of the insurance law of 1892 of the state of New York, you are hereby notified that the quarterly premium of $25.25 on policy No. 58021 will fall due on the 5th day of March, 1897, if the policy be then in force. The conditions of your policy provide that unless such premium shall be paid at the United States branch office of the company, or to a person authorized to collect such premium, holding the company's receipt therefor, by or before that date, the policy and all payments thereon will be forfeited and void, except as to the right to a cash surrender value or paid-up policy.
L. I. DuBourcq,
President of the U.S. Branch.
If payment is made to the company directly, it can be done by valid draft, check, postal or express money order, made out to the order of the United States Branch of the Nederland Life Insurance Co. (Ld.)
This notice was duly received by the assured February 16, 1897.
On Saturday, April 3, 1897, the company sent him by mail another notice, as follows:
Nederland Life Insurance Co., Limited, established 1858, Amsterdam, Holland. United States Branch, 874 Broadway, New York.
New York, April 3, 1897.
217 Law ave., Evansville, Indiana.
The premium on your policy which fell due on the 5th March has not been paid, and the policy is therefore null and void. I beg to inform you, however, that if the same is paid within ten days your policy will be reinstated.
L. L. DuBourcq.
Policy No. 58021.
This notice was received by him in due course of mail on Monday, April 5, 1897, but he never acknowledged its receipt, and never took any steps to have the policy reinstated. On April 22, 1897, the company entered on the appropriate records of its office the declaration that the policy was forfeited and lapsed for failure to pay instalment of premium.
It was agreed between the company and the assured that the provisions printed or written upon the back of the policy were to be taken as part of it, as fully as if they were set forth at length on its face, and signed by the parties. One of them was article 2, which reads as follows:
'In case of nonpayment of any annual premium or instalment thereof within thirty days after the same shall fall due, this policy shall be null and void, subject, however, to provisions as to cash surrender and paid-up policy values. The company will, however, as a matter of favor, and not of right, mail notice to the insured or the assignee, at the last address furnished by him or them to the company, to the effect that the policy may be re-established by the payment of the annual premium or instalment thereof still due, within ten days after mailing notice.'
The application for the insurance, which, by agreement, was also made part of the contract, provided that 'this application shall be governed by the laws of the state of New York, the place of said contract to be the principal office in the United States of said company, in the city of New York.'
Messrs. John L. Cadwalader, George W. Wickersham, and George Coggill for petitioner.
Messrs. G. K. Denton, Albert J. Beveridge, and Larz. A. Whitcomb for respondent.
Statement by Mr. Justice Peckham: Mr. Justice Peckham, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court: