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Manhattan Life Ins. Co. v. Broughton, 109 U.S. 121 (1883)

Manhattan Life Insurance Company v. Broughton

Argued October 22, 1883

Decided November 5, 1883

109 U.S. 121


1. A judgment of nonsuit is no bar to a new action, and of no weight as evidence at the trial of that action.

2. Pending an action in a court of the State of New York against a corporation established in that state by a widow, a citizen of New Jersey, upon a policy of insurance on the life of her husband, the plaintiff assigned the policy to a citizen of New York in trust for her benefit, and was afterwards nonsuited by order of the court. Upon a subsequent petition by the trustee to another court of the state to be relieved of his trust, a citizen of New Jersey was at her request appointed trustee in his stead. One object of this appointment was to enable a suit on the policy to be brought in the circuit court of the United States, which was afterwards brought accordingly. Held that the suit should not be dismissed under the act of 3d March, 1875, c. 137, c. 137, §§ 1, 5.

3. A self-killing by an insane person, understanding the physical nature and consequences of his act but not its moral aspect, is not a death by suicide, within the meaning of a condition in a policy of insurance upon his life that the policy shall be void in case he shall die by suicide, or by the hands of justice or in consequence of a duel or of the violation of any law.

Page 109 U. S. 122

The main facts in this case are stated in the opinion of the Court. For the purposes of the reported argument below, it is sufficient to say that the plaintiffs in error insured the life of one Ferguson for $10,000, payable to his wife in ninety days after proof of his death; that the policy was to be void if Ferguson should die by suicide; that Ferguson hanged himself; that suit was brought in the Court of Common Pleas of the City of New York by the widow to recover on the policy, in which, under a ruling of the court, the plaintiff became nonsuited; that the claim, after commencement of suit and before nonsuit, was assigned to a trustee, a citizen of New York, to secure a debt; and that after nonsuit, the trustee was removed by amicable judicial proceedings, and the defendant in error, a citizen of New Jersey, substituted, the object being to have this suit brought.

Page 109 U. S. 123

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