Hooper v. Robinson - 98 U.S. 528 (1878)


U.S. Supreme Court

Hooper v. Robinson, 98 U.S. 528 (1878)

Hooper v. Robinson

98 U.S. 528

Syllabus

1. A policy upon a cargo in the name of A., "on account of whom it may concern," or with other equivalent terms, will inure to the interest of the party for whom it was intended by A., provided he at the time of effecting the insurance had the requisite authority from such party, or the latter subsequently adopted it.

2. No proof is necessary that the assured had an insurable interest at that time. It is sufficient if such interest subsisted during the risk and when the loss occurred.

3. A policy "lost or not lost" is a valid stipulation for indemnity against past as well as future losses. A contingent interest may be the subject of such a policy.

4. In an action against A. to recover the amount paid to him by the underwriters, who allege that neither he nor his principal had an insurable interest in such cargo, the burden of proof is on the plaintiffs to show that fact.

5. A. having received the money as agent, and promptly paid it over to his principal, without notice of any adverse claim, or reason to suspect it, the plaintiffs, having been guilty of laches, must look to that principal.

The British steamer Carolina came to Baltimore, consigned to James Hooper & Co. They were also her agents while she remained in that port. The plaintiff in error was a member of the firm. Having taken on board her return cargo, the steamer proceeded on her homeward voyage. While in the Chesapeake Bay she was injured by a collision with another vessel, and put back to Baltimore for repairs. She was repaired, and Hooper & Co. paid all the bills and made other disbursements for her. McGarr, the captain, drew on Good

Page 98 U. S. 529

Brothers & Co., of Hull, England, for the amount in favor of Hooper & Co., and at the same time directed them to protect the drawees by insurance, which was intended to be done by the policy here in question. The draft bore date Oct. 20, 1872; was for 1,611 18s. 7d.; was payable in London thirty days after sight; and directed that the amount should be charged "to account for advances for repairs and disbursements of steamship Carolina and her freight, to enable the ship to proceed on her voyage."

The policy of insurance was dated on the 26th of October, 1872, and was to "James Hooper & Co., on account of whom it may concern, in case of loss to be paid to their order." The insurance was "lost or not lost, . . . on merchandise, to cover such risks as are approved and endorsed on the policy." The endorsement set forth the date of the insurance, the name of the vessel, the course of the voyage, the rate of the premium, the amount insured ($8,000), and the remark, "paid advance to cover disbursements and repairs." The names of the agents of the underwriters were affixed. The instrument was a cargo policy. No inquiry was made of Hooper as to whom he was insuring for, and no representation was made by him except as is disclosed in the memorandum endorsed upon the policy. The draft of McGarr was bought by Brown & Sons, bankers, of Baltimore. They transmitted it to their correspondents in London. On the 11th of November, 1872, it was accepted by Good Brothers & Co., and on the 14th of December following they paid it. On the 14th of November, 1872, the steamer foundered at sea. On the 28th of that month notice of the loss was given to the underwriters. On the 6th of December, in answer to a call for proof of loss and interest, Hooper & Co. furnished the Baltimore agent of the underwriters with the protest and a full account of the items of "outfit and disbursements of the British steamer Carolina." In the statement was the charge, "to cash paid insurance on advances $117.33." On the 15th of January, 1873, the agent in Baltimore drew on the defendants in error, his principals in New York, for $8,012, at five days' sight. The draft was paid on the 24th of that month, and on the 31st Hooper & Co. remitted the amount to Good Brothers & Co. in England. When Hooper & Co. received

Page 98 U. S. 530

the draft of the 15th of January, they gave a receipt setting forth that when the draft was paid it would be

"in full for claim for total loss of advancements for disbursements and repairs per steamer Carolina, . . . insured 26th of October, 1872, under policy No. 22,706."

The receipt concluded with a promise, upon the payment of the draft, "to assign all our right, title, and interest in the above advances for disbursements and repairs to the underwriters." Hooper said at the time to the agent "that he had nothing to assign." On the 10th of February, 1873, Hooper & Co. executed to Robinson & Cox, the attorneys of the underwriters, the promised assignment, which was a printed form filled up by the agent, "such as is taken in all cases of abandonment for total loss." Hooper then again told the agent "that he had no interest in the matter, but as it was customary, he would sign the paper."

During all these transactions Hooper & Co. were not asked whether they had insured for themselves or for others; whether they had been or expected to be repaid their disbursements; whether any one else was interested in the policy, or for whom they were collecting the insurance. More than a month after the loss had been paid and the money remitted to England, a marine adjuster came from New York to Baltimore "to ascertain who owed Mr. Hooper for advances." A full disclosure was thereupon made by Hooper. The adjuster suggested to him "to write his friends on the other side to return the money." Hooper asked if the underwriters did not get the premium for insurance, and if the vessel was not lost. Being answered in the affirmative, he said he "would not have the face to write to the parties to return the money." No offer has been made to return to Hooper & Co., or to Good Brothers & Co., the premium for insurance. This suit was brought by the underwriters on the 30th of October, 1873, more than nine months after the loss had been paid and the money remitted to Good Brothers & Co., and more than seven months after Hooper's disclosure to the adjuster.

When the testimony was closed on both sides in the court below, the defendant, Hooper, asked the court to charge the jury, in effect, that if they believed the advances and the insurance were made; that the draft on Good Brothers & Co. was

Page 98 U. S. 531

drawn, accepted, and paid; that the steamer was lost; proof of loss and payment demanded; that Hooper then furnished the plaintiffs with the account of his disbursements; that the plaintiffs thereupon paid him and took the assignment without having made any inquiry as to whether he was collecting for himself or for others, and that within a few days thereafter he remitted the money to Good Brothers & Co. -- all as stated in the evidence, the plaintiffs were not entitled to recover. This instruction the court refused to give, and instructed, in substance, that if the jury believed that when Hooper made his claim for indemnity under the policy he produced the account and subsequently gave the receipt and executed the assignment, and that when he received payment and delivered the assignment he had received notice of the payment of the draft upon Good Brothers & Co., given to him to recover his advances, which fact he did not communicate to the underwriters, then the plaintiffs were entitled to recover the amount of the insurance money which he had received. Hooper excepted to the refusal to instruct and to the instruction given. The jury found for the plaintiffs, and judgment was entered accordingly. The defendant then brought the case here for review.

Page 98 U. S. 536



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