Insurance Company v. Fogarty,
86 U.S. 640 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Insurance Company v. Fogarty, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 640 640 (1873)

Insurance Company v. Fogarty

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 640


1. The cases in reference to the line of distinction between a total and a partial marine loss examined, and the principle announced that it is not necessary to a total loss that there should be an absolute extinction or destruction of the thing insured, so that nothing of it can he delivered at the point of destination.

2. A destruction in specie, so that while some of its component elements or parts may remain, while the thing which was insured, in the character or description by which it was insured, is destroyed is a total loss.

3. Hence, where machinery was insured, to-wit, the parts of a sugar-packing machine, and no part of the same was delivered in a condition capable of use, it is a total loss, though more than half the pieces in number and value may be delivered and would have some value as old iron.

Fogarty sued the Great Western Insurance Company on a policy of marine insurance and recovered a judgment for $2,611.95 and costs. The policy was an open one, and the endorsement procured by the plaintiff on it was of insurance for $2,250, on machinery on board the bark Ella Adele, at and from New York to Havana, free from particular average. The memorandum clause of the policy provided that machines

Page 86 U. S. 641

and machinery of every description were warranted by the assured free from average unless general. The machinery insured consisted of the various parts necessary for a complete sugar packing machine, including, as part of it, three sets of truck irons, and also other extra truck irons. It was described in the bill of lading and invoice as eight pieces and eight boxes, composing one sugar packer and three trucks.

The vessel on which these articles were being transported from New York to Havana, just before reaching the latter city, was driven on rocks in a violent gale, was filled with water, and finally became a total wreck, and was abandoned to the underwriters. Their agent at Havana took possession, and was engaged about a month in raising the cargo. A large number of the pieces composing the plaintiff's machinery was recovered and tendered to him at Havana, which he refused to receive on the ground that the insurance company was liable to him as for a total loss. They denied that under the circumstances of the case there was a total loss within the meaning of the policy, and the soundness of the instruction to the jury on that point, given and refused by the circuit court on the trial, was the only question now before this Court.

There was very little conflict of testimony as to what was recovered and what was its condition when tendered to plaintiff. It was all of iron. About half of it in weight was saved, and the remainder left at the bottom of the sea. That which was saved was entirely useless as machinery, and was of no value except as old iron, for which purpose it would sell for about $50. The machinery in working order was worth $2,250. That which was saved was much broken and rusted, so that it would cost more to repair it, polish it, and put it in order for use than to buy a new machine.

Upon the testimony offered by the plaintiff, the counsel for the defendant moved the court to instruct the jury that the action could not be sustained, because it showed that there was not a total loss. The court declined to do this, and the request was renewed at the conclusion of the defendant's

Page 86 U. S. 642

evidence, and again declined. Several prayers for instruction were then presented by the defendant based upon the leading proposition that if any of the pieces of the machinery insured was recovered and tendered in specie to the assured, there was no total loss. These were refused and exceptions taken to all these refusals, on which error is assigned here. An exception was also taken as to the charge of the court laying down the law by which the jury were to decide the question of total loss submitted to them. That charge was in the following words:

"The meaning of the term 'free from particular average' used in the policy was that the defendants should be liable only for a total loss of the subject insured; that the subject insured was not machines, but machinery, by which is generally understood the several parts or portions of machines, adapted and fitted to be put together so as to constitute a machine (in this case, a sugar packing machine), and, applying the rule of law as to what constitutes a total loss to this particular subject insured, the jury will find whether any piece or portion of the machinery insured arrived at its destination in a perfect condition, so that it could have been used with its corresponding or connecting pieces had they also arrived in good condition; in that case, the plaintiffs could not recover, as the loss would not be total; but that if every piece of the machinery was so damaged by the perils insured against as to be entirely unfit for use on being supplied with its corresponding or connecting pieces, then there was a total loss of the subject insured as machinery, although the material itself might still exist; and if they so found, they would find a verdict for the plaintiff for the sum named in the policy with interest from the tenth day of September, 1868."

Verdict and judgment having gone for the plaintiff, the insurance company brought the case here.

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