Riddlesbarger v. Hartford Insurance Company
74 U.S. 386

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U.S. Supreme Court

Riddlesbarger v. Hartford Insurance Company, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 386 386 (1868)

Riddlesbarger v. Hartford Insurance Company

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 386

Syllabus

1. A condition in a policy of fire insurance that no action against the insurers for the recovery of any claim upon the policy shall be sustained unless commenced within twelve months after the loss shall have occurred, and that the lapse of this period shall be conclusive evidence against the validity of any claim asserted if an action for its enforcement be subsequently commenced is not against the policy of the statute of limitations, and is valid.

2. The action mentioned in the condition which must be commenced within the twelve months is the one which is prosecuted to judgment. The failure of a previous action from any cause cannot alter the case, although such previous action was commenced within the period prescribed.

This was an action against the Hartford Insurance Company

Page 74 U. S. 387

upon a policy of insurance in the sum of five thousand dollars, issued by the said company, a corporation created under the laws of Connecticut, to the plaintiff, upon a brick building, belonging to him, situated in Kansas City, in the state of Missouri. The policy bore date on the first of June, 1861, and was for one year. The building was destroyed by fire in March, 1862, and in June following the plaintiff brought an action for the loss sustained in the Kansas City Court of Common Pleas, in the County of Jackson in that state. To this action the defendant appeared and answered to the merits, and the cause continued in that court until June, 1864, when it was dismissed by the plaintiff. Within one year after this dismissal, the present action was commenced in the Court of Common Pleas in the County of St. Louis, from which it was transferred to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Missouri.

The policy contained the following condition:

"That no suit or action of any kind against said company for the recovery of any claim upon, under, or by virtue of the said policy shall be sustainable in any court of law or chancery, unless such suit or action shall be commenced within the term of twelve months next after the loss or damage shall occur, and in case any suit or action shall be commenced against said company after the expiration of twelve months next after such loss or damage shall have occurred, the lapse of time shall be taken and deemed as conclusive evidence against the validity of such claim thereby so attempted to be enforced."

To the present action the defendant pleaded this condition. The plaintiff replied the commencement of the first action in the Kansas City Court of Common Pleas within the year stipulated in the condition, and the commencement of the present action within one year after the dismissal of that action. To the replication the defendant demurred.

The statute of limitations of Missouri, after prescribing various periods of limitation for different actions, provides that if in any action commenced within the periods mentioned, the plaintiff shall "suffer a nonsuit," he may commence a new action within one year afterwards.

Page 74 U. S. 389

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