Orient Insurance Company v. Daggs

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Orient Insurance Company v. Daggs by Joseph McKenna
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

172 U.S. 557

Orient Insurance Company  v.  Daggs

This is an action at law upon a policy of insurance issued by the plaintiff in error, a corporation organized under the laws of the state of Connecticut. The policy was issued in June, 1893, insuring the defendant in error against loss or damage by fire to a certain barn situated in Scotland county, Mo., in a sum not to exceed $800. The barn was, within less than three months after the issuing of the policy, entirely consumed by fire, and an action was brought upon the contract to compel the payment of the entire sum of $800.

The petition filed in the case avers the delivery of the policy of insurance to the defendant in error, and says that the company, by virtue of said policy, promised to pay the plaintiff the sum of $800 in case said barn should be destroyed by fire, and attaches a copy of the policy to the petition as the basis of the action.

The answer filed by the company stated that the 'defendant is a corporation, organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the state of Connecticut, doing a general fire insurance business in the state of Missouri, and avers it has been doing such business continually since and prior to the 1st day of June, 1873, and that said defendant was and is fully authorized to do such business in the state of Missouri.' The answer admitted the delivery of the policy and the total destruction of the barn by fire; that the plaintiff was the owner thereof; and that proofs of loss had been made.

The defendant, further answering, stated that the contract of insurance sued on in the case was the contract between the parties, and that it provided that 'said insurance company shall not be liable beyond the actual cash value of the property at the time any loss or damage occurs, and that the loss or damage shall be ascertained or estimated according to the actual cash value of the property at the time of the fire, and shall in no case exceed what it will cost to replace the same, deducting therefrom a suitable amount for any depreciation of said property from age, use, or location, or otherwise.' The answer further averred that at the time of the burning of the building in question it was not worth to exceed $100, which amount the plaintiff in error then offered to pay, with interest from the date of the fire, and to return the premium. The answer of the defendant further averred as follows:

'The defendant says that section 5897 of chapter 89, article 4, of the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri, compiled in the year 1889, provides as follows: 'In all suits brought upon policies of insurance against loss or damage by fire, hereafter issued or renewed, the defendant shall not be permitted to deny that the property insured thereby was worth at the time of the issuing of the policy the full amount insured therein on said property; and in case of total loss of the property insured, the measure of damages shall be the amount for which the same was insured, less whatever depreciation in value below the amount for which the property is insured the property may have sustained, between the time of issuing the policy and the time of the loss, and the burden of proving such depreciation shall be upon the defendant.' * * * And that section 5898 of said chapter provides that no condition in any policy of insurance contrary to the provisions of this article, meaning thereby article 4, shall be legal or valid. The defendant says that said statute was enacted prior to the issuing of said policy, and has not been repealed.'

The defendant pleaded that said statute is contrary to the constitution of Missouri, and that the same is unconstitutiona , null, and void, and proceeded to aver as follows:

'The defendant, further answering, says that sections 5897 and 5898 of chapter 89, article 4, of the Statutes of Missouri, are contrary to, and in contravention of, the constitution of the United States, which provides that no state shall pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law, or laws impairing the obligation of contracts.

'Defendant, further answering, says that said sections, and each of them, are contrary to, and in contravention of, article 14 of the constitution of the United States, commonly called the 'Fourteenth Amendment,' and particularly of article 1 of said amendment, which is as follows: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any laws which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'

'And that said sections 5897 and 5898 of chapter 89, article 4, of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, are unconstitutional and contrary to the constitution of the United States, and are null and void.

'That the defendant has the constitutional right to limit its liability by contract to actual damages caused by fire.'

To this answer the plaintiff and assured filed a demurrer, which demurrer the court sustained, and, the defendant electing to stand upon the ruling upon said demurrer, judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiff, and in due course the cause was appealed to the supreme court of Missouri. At October term, 1896, the supreme court of Missouri rendered an opinion in said case, affirming the judgment of the court below. 136 Mo. 282, 38 S. W. 85. The case then came to this court in due course upon petition in error.

There are 23 assignments of error, which present the claim of plaintiff in error under the constitution of the United States, and the alleged error of the state court denying the claim.

A. H. McVey, for plaintiff in error.

Mr. Justice McKENNA, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).