Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria v. Hodgson - 11 U.S. 332 (1813)


U.S. Supreme Court

Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria v. Hodgson, 11 U.S. 7 Cranch 332 332 (1813)

Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria v. Hodgson

11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 332

Syllabus

Upon an action on a valued policy, if a misrepresentation of the age and tonnage of the vessel whereby the underwriters were induced to agree to a high valuation be a defense, it is at law and not in equity.

There may be cases in which relief ought to be extended to a person who might have defended but has omitted to defend himself at law, but such cases do not frequently occur. The equity of the applicant must be free from doubt.

Any fact which clearly proves it to be against conscience to execute a judgment and of which the injured party could not avail himself in a court of law, or of which he could have availed himself at law, but was prevented by fraud or accident, unmixed with any fault or negligence in himself or his agents, will justify an application to a court of chancery.

This was an appeal from the decree of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia sitting at Alexandria in a suit in equity brought by the Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria against Hodgson to enjoin so much of a judgment at law obtained by the latter against the former as exceeded the value of the brig Hope as found by the jury in a special verdict upon a valued policy.

It was contended in the bill that the age and tonnage of the vessel was misrepresented, and that such misrepresentation induced the complainants to value the ship at $10,000, when in fact she was worth only $3,300, as specially found by the jury on the trial at law. She was represented to be about 250 tons burden when she was only 161 tons, and to be from six to seven years old when she was between nine and ten years old.

The bill also alleged as a ground for relief the refusal of the court below to receive two pleas offered by the complainants on the trial at law, the rejection of which pleas had been assigned for error in this Court when the cause was here last (see ante, 10 U.S. 10 U. S. 206) but this Court thought the rejection of a plea no ground for a writ of error, and therefore gave no opinion as to the propriety of admitting them.

Page 11 U. S. 333

The first of those pleas stated the above misrepresentation as to the age, tonnage, and value of the vessel, and averred it to be material in regard to the risk of the voyage. The other plea stated in general terms that the policy was obtained by fraud with intent to defraud the complainants of the difference between the true and the represented value of the vessel, which difference it averred to be more than $4,000.

Upon the answer of Hodgson and the other evidence in the cause, the court below dissolved the injunction and dismissed the bill.

Page 11 U. S. 335



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