Swan v. Union Insurance Company of Maryland
16 U.S. 168 (1813)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Swan v. Union Insurance Company of Maryland, 16 U.S. 3 Wheat. 168 168 (1813)

Swan v. Union Insurance Company of Maryland

16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 168

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND

Syllabus

To entitle the plaintiff to recover in an action on a policy of insurance, the loss must be occasioned by one of the perils insured against. The insured cannot recover for a loss by barratry unless the barratry produced the loss, but it is immaterial whether the loss so produced occurred during the continuance of the barratry or afterwards.

This was an action on a policy of Insurance upon the schooner Humming Bird at and from New York to Port au Prince and at and from thence back to New York. The policy was dated 21 July, 1810, and the vessel sailed on the voyage insured on the 5th of that month. About 5 August following, she arrived at Port au Prince and was there stripped of her sails and a considerable part of her rigging by one James Gillespie, to whom she had been chartered for the voyage. This was done with the knowledge and acquiescence of the master either for the purpose of procuring the loss of the vessel or of fitting up another vessel which Gillespie wished to dispatch to the United States. On her return voyage, she was sunk by Gillespie, but whether with or without the knowledge of the master did not appear. The plaintiff insisted at the trial that as barratry had been committed at Port au Prince, the subsequent loss, however occasioned,

Page 16 U. S. 169

was to be ascribed to that cause, and he was entitled to recover. But the court directed the jury that, admitting the act at Port au Prince to be barratry, the plaintiff could not recover on account of it unless the jury should be of opinion that it produced the loss. Under this direction, to which the plaintiff excepted, the jury found a verdict for the defendants.

Page 16 U. S. 170

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court, and after stating the facts, proceeded as follows:

The general principle unquestionably is that to entitle the plaintiff to recover, the loss must be occasioned by one of the perils in the policy. This is equally the rule of reason and the rule of law. But the plaintiff contends that the case of Vallejo v. Wheeler denies the application of this principle to a loss in a case in which barratry has been committed. This Court is not of that opinion. The case of Vallejo v. Wheeler declares it to be immaterial whether the loss occurred during the continuance of the barratry, or afterwards, not whether the loss was produced by the barratry. In that case the court was of opinion that the loss was produced by the barratry.

Judgment Affirmed.

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