In a diversity action by respondent administrator against
petitioner insurer for recovery under the double indemnity
provision of a life insurance policy issued in Michigan to
respondent's decedent, who was killed in Illinois, the District
Court ruled that, under Illinois conflict of laws rules, Michigan
substantive law applied, and that, under that law, petitioner was
liable only for ordinary benefits. On respondent's appeal, the
Court of Appeals reversed the judgment that, under Michigan law
petitioner was liable only for ordinary benefits, and also held
that petitioner's failure to cross-appeal precluded it from arguing
that Illinois law applied, under which it would also be liable only
for ordinary benefits.
The Court of Appeals erred because petitioner's
argument was no more than "an attack on the reasoning of the lower
court," and, as such, required no cross-appeal. United States
v. American Ry. Exp. Co., 265 U. S. 425
265 U. S.
Certiorari granted; 524 F.2d 376, vacated and remanded.
This is a diversity case. Petitioner (the insurer) issued a life
insurance policy in Michigan to Dean E. Cane providing for double
indemnity if Cane's
"death was the result of an injury sustained while the insured
was a passenger in or upon a public conveyance then being operated
by a common carrier to transport passengers for hire. . . ."
Cane was killed in Illinois by a freight train while crossing a
railroad track in order to board a commuter train which had not yet
arrived at the station. The insurer paid Cane's estate ordinary
benefits, but denied liability under the double indemnity provision
of the policy.
Page 426 U. S. 480
The administrator of Cane's estate (respondent) sued the insurer
in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to
recover benefits under the double indemnity provision. The District
Court held that, under Illinois conflict of laws rules, the law of
the situs of the contract (Michigan) applied, and that, under
Michigan law, the insurer was liable only for ordinary benefits.
The administrator appealed. The insurer argued in the Court of
Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that the District Court's
application and interpretation of Michigan law was correct, and,
alternatively, that Illinois conflict of laws rules required
application of Illinois -- not Michigan -- substantive law in this
case, and that, under Illinois substantive law, its liability was
also only for ordinary benefits. The Court of Appeals reversed, 524
F.2d 376 (1975), but without reaching the question of which State's
substantive law would be applicable under the Illinois conflicts
rule. The court held that the insurer was precluded from arguing on
appeal the applicability of Illinois substantive law, because it
had not cross-appealed from the District Court's ruling that
Michigan law applied. Id.
at 379 n. 1.
The Court of Appeals' decision on this issue is plainly at odds
with the "inveterate and certain" rule, Morley Co. v. Maryland
Cas. Co., 300 U. S. 185
300 U. S. 191
(1937), of United States v. American Ry. Exp. Co.,
265 U. S. 425
265 U. S. 435
(1924), where a unanimous Court said:
"It is true that a party who does not appeal from a final decree
of the trial court cannot be heard in opposition thereto when the
case is brought here by the appeal of the adverse party. In other
words, the appellee may not attack the decree with a view either to
enlarging his own rights thereunder or of lessening the rights of
his adversary, whether what he seeks is to correct an error or to
Page 426 U. S. 481
decree with respect to a matter not dealt with below. But it is
likewise settled that the appellee may, without taking a
cross-appeal, urge in support of a decree any matter appearing in
the record, although his argument may involve an attack upon the
reasoning of the lower court or an insistence upon matter
overlooked or ignored by it."
(Footnote omitted.) The argument of the insurer before the Court
of Appeals that Illinois, not Michigan, substantive law applied was
no more than "an attack upon the reasoning of the lower court,"
and, as such, required no cross-appeal.
Because the Court of Appeals did "not reach the issue nor
express any opinion on the effect of the tort claim conflicts of
law doctrine" of Illinois, 524 F.2d at 379 n. 1, we think it
"appropriate to remand the case, rather than deal with the merits
of that question in this Court." Dandridge v. Williams,
397 U. S. 471
397 U. S. 476
n. 6 (1970). Accordingly, the petition for writ of certiorari is
granted, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the
case is remanded for further proceedings in conformity with this
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.