1. The doctrine established and the rules laid down in
9 Wall. 430, in Norris v.
9 Wall. 125, and in other cases decided
since, as to the proper mode of bringing here for review questions
arising in cases where a jury is waived and a cause submitted to
the court under the provisions of the Act of March 5, 1865,
reiterated and adhered to.
2. The rules themselves again set forth in detail.
3. When there is nothing in the record to show specifically what
was excepted to, but where all is general -- as, for example, when
at the end of the bill of exceptions and immediately preceding the
signature of the judge, are the words "exceptions allowed," and
nothing to indicate the application of the exceptions -- so that
the exception, if it amounts to anything, covers the whole record
-- this Court will not regard the exception. It should have
presented specifically and distinctly the ruling objected to.
Sidney Sea sued the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance
Company upon a policy of insurance. On the trial, a jury was waived
and the cause submitted to the court under the provisions of the
Act of March 5, 1865. [Footnote
] The plea was the general issue, with a stipulation by the
parties that the defendant might offer any and every matter in
evidence under it with the like effect as though such matter had
been specially pleaded. There was a general finding for the
plaintiff, and judgment accordingly.
At the trial, a bill of exceptions was taken which embodied all
the evidence. Several exceptions were entered to the rulings of the
court upon the admission of testimony, but no one of these rulings
was assigned here for error.
At the close of the testimony, the defendant made the following
objections to the finding of the issues for the plaintiff:
1. That the plaintiff's title was a conditional or equitable
title, and not an absolute one, at the time the policy was
Page 88 U. S. 159
issued, and that there was such a concealment of the kind of
title he possessed as to vitiate the policy.
2. That the conveyance of one of the houses and lots to Mrs.
Sea, wife of the plaintiff, after the making of the policy and
before the loss, without the consent or knowledge of the defendant,
vitiated the policy.
3. That in the proofs the plaintiff had stated falsely that the
property was his when in fact one of the houses and lots belonged
to his wife, and thereby the policy was rendered void. And the
defendant asserted, as evidence of the fraud, that the plaintiff,
in sending a copy of the contract to the defendant, had omitted
from the copy sent the endorsement or memorandum on it showing that
one lot had been transferred to Mrs. Sea.
4. That immediately after the fire, notice of the loss was not
given, as required by the policy, to the defendant.
But the court held and decided:
1. That the plaintiff had an insurable interest in the property,
notwithstanding he had not the absolute title, and that there was
no such concealment of his actual interest or title as to vitiate
2. That however it might be as to the lot and building actually
conveyed to Mrs. Sea, the fact of such conveyance did not render
invalid the policy of insurance as to the other houses, though not
communicated to the defendant.
3. That it did not appear from the evidence that in his proofs
of loss the plaintiff had willfully or intentionally falsely stated
the title or his interest in the property; that he might have
regarded it all as his, in one sense, though the title to one lot
was in his wife.
4. That the company had waived any right it might originally
have had to insist upon the fact that notice in writing of loss was
not immediately communicated to the company.
At the end of the bill of exceptions, and immediately preceding
the signature of the judge, are the words "exceptions allowed,"
without anything to indicate specially what was excepted to.
It was assigned for error that the court erred in ruling
Page 88 U. S. 160
upon each and all of the four points made upon the trial, as
THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Much protracted litigation attended the settlement of mere
questions of practice under the act passed in 1824, [Footnote 2
] authorizing the trial of issues
of fact by the courts of the United States, with the consent of
parties, in Louisiana. To avoid a like experience under the Act of
1865, it was deemed important by this Court "to settle the practice
under it at an early day with a precision and distinctness that
could not be misunderstood," and to "require in all cases, where
the parties saw fit to avail themselves of the privileges of the
act, a reasonably strict compliance with its provisions." [Footnote 3
] Accordingly, as early as
1869, in the case of Norris v. Jackson,
] after a very careful examination
of the provisions of the act, the following construction was given
1. If the finding be general, only such rulings of the court in
the progress of the trial can be reviewed as are presented by bill
of exceptions, or as may arise upon the pleadings.
2. In such case, a bill of exceptions cannot be used to bring up
the whole testimony for review any more than in a trial by
3. That if the parties desire a review of the law involved in
the case, they must either get the court to make a special finding
which raises the legal propositions or they must present to the
court their propositions of law and require a ruling on them.
4. That objection to the admission or exclusion of evidence, or
to such ruling on the propositions of law as the party may ask,
must appear by bill of exceptions.
The construction of the statute and the practice under it have
also been brought to the attention of the court in
Page 88 U. S. 161
v. United States,
] Copelin v. Insurance Company,
] Coddington v.
Miller v. Life Insurance Company,
] Insurance Company v. Folsom,
] Ohio v.
Cooper v. Omohundro,
] and Crews v. Brewer,
] and it can certainly be
said that in no one of these cases has there been any relaxation of
the rules originally announced.
The practice having thus been distinctly and positively settled,
it remains to consider its application to this case.
As no errors are assigned upon the rulings of the court
admitting testimony, the exceptions to those rulings are not now
No distinct proposition of law was in form presented to the
court for adjudication and a ruling upon it asked. But by the
stipulation of the parties, the general issue was converted into
all the appropriate special pleas that could be devised, with such
subsequent pleadings as were required to present all the issues of
law or fact that might properly be brought into the case.
The first, third, and fourth objections urged by the defendant
against the finding of the issues for the plaintiff necessarily
involved the determination of questions of fact. These were found
against the defendant. That finding cannot be reviewed here. The
action of the circuit court to that extent is final.
In the second objection it was insisted that the conveyance of
one of the houses and lots to Mrs. Sea after the making of the
policy and before the loss, without the consent of the defendant,
vitiated the whole policy. As to this, the court held that however
it might be as to the lot and building actually conveyed to Mrs.
Sea, the fact of such conveyance did not render invalid the policy
of insurance as to the other houses, though not communicated to the
If a special exception, in proper from, had been taken to this
ruling, we might possibly have been inclined to hold, under the
stipulation in the case as to the pleadings, that it
Page 88 U. S. 162
was equivalent to a special finding of the conveyance to Mrs.
Sea, and a judgment notwithstanding in favor of the plaintiff for
the value of the remaining houses covered by the policy. But there
was no such exception. The words are "exceptions allowed." That is
all. There is nothing specific. Everything is general. If the
exception amounts to anything, it covers the whole record. Such a
practice never has been, and ought not to be, sanctioned by this
Court. Exceptions, to be of any avail, must present distinctly and
specifically the ruling objected to. [Footnote 13
] A case ought not to be left in such a
condition after a trial that the defeated party may hunt through
the record, and if he finds an unsuspected error attach it to a
general exception and thus obtain a reversal of the judgment upon a
point that may never have been brought to the attention of the
court below. Such a result might follow if the form of exception
here adopted should be allowed. We are not inclined to depart from
a rule which has so long been recognized here, and which has been
found so beneficial to litigants as well as the court.
13 Stat. at Large 501.
4 Stat. at Large 62.
9 Wall. 430.
76 U. S. 9
76 U. S. 9
76 U. S. 9
77 U. S. 10
79 U. S. 12
85 U. S. 18
85 U. S. 18
86 U. S. 19
86 U. S. 19
8 Wall. 354.