Insurance Company v. Tweed
74 U.S. 44 (1868)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Insurance Company v. Tweed, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 44 44 (1868)

Insurance Company v. Tweed

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 44

Syllabus

1. The act of March 3, 1865, 13 Statutes at Large, 501, which provides by its fourth section a mode by which parties who submit cases to the court without the intervention of a jury, may have the rulings of the court reviewed here, and also what may be reviewed in such cases, binds the federal courts sitting in Louisiana as elsewhere, and this Court cannot disregard it.

However, in a case where the counsel for both parties in this Court had agreed to certain parts of the opinion of the court below as containing the material facts of the case, and to treat them here as facts found by that court, this Court acted upon the agreement here as if it had been made in the court below.

2. Cotton in a warehouse was insured against fire, the policy containing an exception against fire which might happen "by means of any invasion, insurrection, riot, or civil commotion, or any military or usurped power, explosion, earthquake, or hurricane." An explosion took place in another warehouse situated directly across a street which threw down the walls of the first warehouse, scattered combustible materials in the street, and resulted in an extensive conflagration embracing several squares of buildings, and among them the warehouse where the cotton was stored, which, with it, was wholly consumed. The fire was not communicated from the warehouse where the explosion took place directly to the warehouse where the cotton was, but came more immediately from a third building which was itself fired by the explosion. Wind was blowing (with what force did not appear) from this third building to the one in which the cotton was stored. But the whole fire was a continuous affair from the explosion and under full headway in about half an hour. Held that the insurers were not liable, the case not being one for the application of the maxim "causa proxima, non remota, spectatur."

Tweed brought suit in the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against the Mutual Insurance Company on a policy of insurance against fire which covered

Page 74 U. S. 45

certain bales of cotton in a building in Mobile known as the Alabama Warehouse. The policy contained a proviso that the insurers should not be liable to make good any loss or damage by fire which might happen or take place "by means of any invasion, insurrection, riot, or civil commotion, or any military or usurped power, explosion, earthquake, or hurricane."

During the time covered by the policy, an explosion took place in another building, the Marshall Warehouse, situated directly across a street, which threw down the walls of the Alabama Warehouse and scattered combustible materials in the street, and resulted in an extensive conflagration embracing several squares of buildings, among which the Alabama Warehouse, and the cotton stored in it were wholly destroyed.

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It is to be understood, however, that the fire was not communicated directly from the Marshall Warehouse, in which the explosion occurred, to the Alabama Warehouse, but that it came more immediately from a third building -- the Eagle Mill -- which was itself fired by the explosion. The wind (with what force did not appear) was blowing in a direction from the Eagle Mill to the Alabama Warehouse. But the whole fire was a continuous affair from the explosion, and under full headway in about half an hour.

Page 74 U. S. 46

Upon this state of facts the court below held that the principle "causa proxima, non remota, spectatur" applied, and that accordingly the fire which consumed this cotton did not "happen or take place by means of an explosion." It therefore gave judgment for the plaintiff below. The correctness of this view was the question now to be decided here on error.

The case was tried by the court below without a jury. There was no bill of exceptions nor any ruling on any proposition of law raised by the pleadings. The evidence seemed to have been copied into the transcript, but whether it was all the testimony, or how it came to be there, there was nothing to show. However, in the court's opinion (or, as it was styled, "reasons for judgment"), the learned judge below quoted considerable portions of the evidence in order to show the grounds for the conclusion which he had reached. And the counsel in this Court agreed to certain parts of the opinion so given as presenting a correct statement of the case.

Page 74 U. S. 50

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