Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth
300 U.S. 227 (1937)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227 (1937)

Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Haworth

No. 446

Argued February 4, 1937

Decided March 1, 1937

300 U.S. 227

Syllabus

1. The Federal Declaratory Judgment Act deals with "controversies" in the constitutional sense, and is procedural only. P. 300 U. S. 239.

2. In the exercise of its control over practice and procedure of the lower federal courts, Congress is not limited to traditional forms or remedies, but may create and improve, as well as abolish or restrict. P. 300 U. S. 240.

3. A controversy, in the constitutional sense and in the sense of the Declaratory Judgment Act, must be justiciable -- it must be definite and concrete, touching the legal relation of parties having adverse legal interests -- it must be a real and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a conclusive decree, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical statement of facts. P. 300 U. S. 240.

4. There may be adjudication of the rights of parties without award of process or payment of damages and where no allegation of irreparable injury is made. P. 300 U. S. 241.

5. Where the holder of life insurance policies claims, under disability benefit clauses, that, notwithstanding nonpayment of premiums, the policies, by reason of his total and permanent disability,

Page 300 U. S. 228

remain in force and entitle him to cash benefits, and makes repeated and persistent demands upon the insurer accordingly, whereas the insurer denies that such disability existed and insists that the policies have lapsed because the premiums were not paid, there is an "actual controversy" on which suit may be maintained by the insurer against the insured under the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act. P. 300 U. S. 242.

8 F.2d 695, reversed.

CERTIORARI, 299 U.S. 536.

This suit by the Insurance Company, under the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, was dismissed by the District Court upon the ground that there was no justiciable controversy. 11 F.Supp. 1016. The decree was affirmed by the court below.

Page 300 U. S. 236

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