This case is dismissed for want of jurisdiction, as the Supreme
Court of Minnesota did not deny the validity of the New York
statute with regard
to insurance, but only construed it, and even granting that its
construction was erroneous, faith and credit were not denied to the
This action was brought in the District Court of the Second
Judicial District of the State of Minnesota upon a life insurance
policy for $20,000, issued by defendant in error to William
Bankolzer, husband of the plaintiff in error, dated the 16th of
September, 1895, payable upon the death of Bankolzer to plaintiff
in error, or to Bankolzer himself on the 16th of September, 1915,
if he should be living then.
The premiums were to be paid annually in advance on the 16th day
of September of every year, until twenty full years' premiums
should be paid.
The first premium was paid, which continued the policy in force
until the 16th of September, 1896.
The policy contained the following provisions:
"If any premium is not paid on or before the day when due, this
policy shall become void, and all payments previously made shall
remain the property of the company, except as hereinafter
"A grace of one month will be allowed in payment of subsequent
premiums after this policy shall have been in force three months,
subject to an interest charge at the rate of five percent per annum
for the number of days during which the premium remains due and
unpaid. During the month of grace, this policy remains in force,
the unpaid premium, with interest, as above, remains an
indebtedness to the company, which will be deducted from the amount
payable under this policy if the death of the insured shall occur
during the month. "
Page 178 U. S. 403
On the 6th day of October, 1896, Bankolzer paid the defendant
the sum of $286 in cash, and executed and delivered to the
defendant the following note:
"St. Paul, Minn., 9-16, 1896"
"Without grace, six months after date, I promise to pay to the
order of the New York Life Insurance Company eight hundred and
sixty dollars at Second National Bank, St. Paul, Minn. Value
received, with interest at the rate of five percent per annum."
"This note is given in part payment of the premium due 9-16-'96,
on the above policy, with the understanding that all claims to
further insurance and all benefits whatever which full payment in
cash of said premium would have secured shall become immediately
void and be forfeited to the New York Life Insurance Company if
this note is not paid at maturity, except as otherwise provided in
the policy itself."
"(Signed) William Bankolzer"
The following receipt was given for the note:
"St. Paul, Minn., 10-6-'96"
"Note six months, after date 9-16-'96, due 3-16-'97, without
grace, made by William Bankolzer, payable at Second National Bank,
St. Paul, Minn. Received from the owner of policy No. 692,465, $286
in cash, and his note at six months for $860, which continues said
policy in force until the 16th day of September, 1897 at noon, in
accordance with its terms and conditions, provided the above note
is paid at maturity, and this receipt signed by"
"J. A. Campbell, Cashier
The note matured March 16, 1897, when it was surrendered to
Bankolzer, and he paid to the defendant $241.50 in cash, and
executed and delivered to the defendant a new note in terms exactly
similar to the first note, except that it was payable in sixty days
from date. This note was never paid.
On May 28, 1897, Bankolzer was taken sick, and died on July 5,
On June 18, 1897, Bankolzer, through his attorney, sent a
Page 178 U. S. 404
draft to the defendant for the sum of $690, being the amount due
on the note of March 16 of that year, in tender of its payment. The
defendant returned the draft, writing by its comptroller that,
"as policy No. 692,465 -- Bankolzer -- stands lapsed on the
books of the company for nonpayment of the note described above, we
return herewith the draft forwarded in your letter of above date.
We shall thank you for an acknowledgment of this enclosure. When
writing, please refer to this letter by file number."
By the application for the policy, the latter was to be
construed according to the laws of New York. The statute which is
claimed to be applicable is inserted in the margin. *
The notice required by the statute was duly given more than
fifteen and less than forty-five days prior to September 16, 1896,
but no notice was given prior to the maturity of the notes, except
the ordinary bank notice.
Page 178 U. S. 405
The insurance company has not returned the note of March 16,
1897, and the record does not show that it has ever been
By stipulation of the parties, the printed record in Conway
v. Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company,
140 N.Y. 79,
together with briefs of counsel, were made part of the record as
though they had been introduced in evidence, and it was also
stipulated that they should be certified to this Court.
At the close of the plaintiff's testimony, the case was
dismissed. Subsequently a motion for a new trial was made and
denied, and an appeal was then taken to the supreme court of the
state, which affirmed the decision of the trial court. A reargument
was granted, and the court adhered to its opinion. 74 Minn.
The case is here on writ of error, and defendant in error moves
to dismiss for want of jurisdiction, or to affirm the judgment.
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.
The case is here on a single question. The counsel for plaintiff
in error says:
"While originally other questions were raised by the plaintiff,
they were determined adversely to her and her case made to stand or
fall solely upon the interpretation of the New York statute, and
the question now before this Court is did the court below in the
case at bar give to the statute such full faith and credit as is
secured to it by the Constitution of the United States."
That question, therefore, is made the ground of our
jurisdiction. The defendant in error challenges its sufficiency,
Page 178 U. S. 406
moves to dismiss because the Supreme Court of Minnesota did not
deny the validity of the New York statute, but only construed it,
and, even granting the construction was erroneous, faith and credit
were not denied to the statute. Glenn v. Garth,
147 U. S. 360
Lloyd v. Matthews, 155 U. S. 222
Those cases sustain the distinction which defendant in error
makes, and the deduction from it, and our inquiry will therefore
be: did the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota deny the
validity of the New York statute, or only consider its operation
and effect? The claim of the defendant in error is that each of the
notes was an "installment or portion of the premium," and that
therefore the Supreme Court of Minnesota, in holding that the
notice prescribed by section 92 was not necessary to be given prior
to the maturity of the notes, denied full faith and credit to the
We dispute the conclusion without passing on the premises. The
ruling was a construction of the statute, not a denial of its
validity, and that the court meant no more, and meant to follow,
not oppose, the decisions of the state is evident from its
The first opinion was put on the authority of Conway v.
140 N.Y. 79, on the assumption that its facts
were not different from those of the case at bar. In the second
opinion, the construction of the New York statute was considered as
and it was held that "the notice required by
it was not applicable to the notes given by Bankolzer for part of
the September premium."
In the first opinion, the contention that the "premium notice"
required by the statute applied to the note, which fell due March
16, 1897, and that the policy could not be forfeited without such
notice, the learned justice who spoke for the court said:
"Even if the question was res nova,
I am clearly of the
opinion that, upon the facts, this statutory provision has no
application to this note. But, as my brethren do not agree with me
in this, it would be useless for me to enter into any discussion of
the reasons for my opinion. The parties mutually agreed
Page 178 U. S. 407
that this should be deemed a New York contract and construed
according to the laws of that state. The decisions of the highest
court of that state as to the construction of such a contract and
of the statutes of New York must therefore be accepted as
conclusive upon the parties. In Conway v. Phoenix Insurance
140 N.Y. 79, upon a state of facts and under a statute
which, in our opinion, are in no way distinguishable from those
involved in the present case, the Court of Appeals held that the
notice required by statute did not apply to the notes; that the
company having served that notice before the premium became due, no
further notice was required. Counsel for the plaintiff do not claim
that the facts of the two cases are in any respect distinguishable,
but they seek to draw a distinction between the language of the
statute considered in the Conway
case and the statute
applicable to the present case. The statute under consideration in
the former was Laws of N.Y., 1876, c. 341, as amended by Laws 1877,
c. 321; the statute applicable to the present case is Laws of N.Y.,
1892, c. 690, section 92. This last act appears to be a compilation
and revision of all the insurance laws of the state, and section 92
thereof is but an embodiment (with certain amendments) of the
provisions of the act of 1876 as amended in 1877. We have compared
the language of the two acts, and are unable to discover any
difference between them that at all affects the question now under
"Even if the 'one month's grace' allowed by the policy for the
payment of the premium was applicable to the notes (which I do not
think is so), that fact would not aid the plaintiff, for the
insured did not offer to pay the last note until thirty-three days
after it matured."
In the second opinion the court said that it had overlooked that
counsel had claimed the case to be distinguishable on the facts
from the Conway
case, but, on reexamining the
case, it further said that the question of notice
might have been disposed of on the ground of want of power of the
agent of the insurance company to accept a note --
"But we are now equally well satisfied that in what the court
said on the subject of notice in the last part of the opinion, it
intended to and did decide the question upon the assumption
Page 178 U. S. 408
that the company was bound by the agent's acceptance of a time
note for the premium. This is made quite clear to our minds from an
examination of the record and briefs in the case, copies of which
have been furnished us by counsel for the defendant."
"While this shows the views of the Court of Appeals upon the
construction of the statute, the doubt in our minds is whether,
under the circumstances, it is a decision of the question which is
binding on us. See Carroll v. Carroll,
275, 57 U. S. 286
"We shall not decide that question, as we are satisfied that if
the construction of the New York statute is to be considered as
the notice required by it was not applicable
to the notes given by Bankolzer for part of the September premium.
The statute was no doubt enacted for the benefit of the insured,
recognizing the fact that very often they were people who were
neither experts nor systematic in business matters, and therefore
liable to overlook or forget the due days of their premiums
according to the terms of their policies, issued perhaps years
before, laid away and seldom examined or referred to, and while
courts are usually liberal in protecting the assured against
forfeitures, this is always done in the interest of justice, and is
no reason why any strained or forced construction should be placed
upon this statute which would be unreasonable or operate
oppressively upon the insurers, or which was not within the
The plaintiff in error, however, assails the conclusions of the
court. It asserts the court erred in its construction of the
case, and erred in its independent construction of
the New York statute .
the correctness of both assertions,
the validity of the statute was not denied. Its validity and
authority were declared and its meaning was first sought in a
decision of the New York courts, and then confirmed by an
independent care and construction.
We think, therefore, that the cases of Glenn v. Garth,
147 U. S. 360
Lloyd v. Matthews, 155 U. S. 222
apply, and on their authority, the action should be dismissed for
want of jurisdiction.
And it is so ordered.
"No life insurance corporation doing business in this state
shall declare forfeited or lapsed any policy hereafter issued or
renewed, and not issued upon the payment of monthly or weekly
premiums, or unless the same is a term insurance contract for one
year or less, nor shall any such policy be forfeited or lapsed by
reason of nonpayment when due of any premium, interest, or
installment or any portion thereof required by the terms of the
policy to be paid, unless a written or printed notice stating the
amount of such premium, interest, installment or portion thereof
due on such policy, the place where it should be paid, and the
person to whom the same is payable, shall be duly addressed and
mailed to the person whose life is insured, or the assignee of the
policy, if notice of the assignment has been given to the
corporation at his or her last known post office address, postage
paid by the corporation or by an officer thereof or person
appointed by it to collect such premium at least fifteen and not
more than forty-five days prior to the day when the same is
"The notice shall also state that, unless such premium,
interest, or installment or portion thereof then due shall be paid
to the corporation or to a duly appointed agent or person
authorized to collect such premium, by or before the date it falls
due, the policy and all payments thereon will become forfeited and
void except as the right to a surrender value or paid-up policy, as
in this chapter provided."
"If the payment demanded by such notice shall be made within its
time limited therefor, it shall be taken to be in full compliance
with the requirements of the policy in respect to the time of such
payment, and no such policy shall in any case be forfeited or
declared forfeited or lapsed until the expiration of thirty days
after the mailing of such notice."
Laws 1892, c. 690, section 92.