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Mutual Life Ins. Co. of New York v. Cohen, 179 U.S. 262 (1900)

Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York v. Cohen

No. 157

Argued March 14-15, 1900

Decided December 3, 1900

179 U.S. 262


The provision in the statutes of New York that

"no life insurance company doing business in the New York shall have power to declare forfeited or lapsed any policy hereafter issued or renewed, by reason of nonpayment of any annual premium or interest, or any portion thereof, except as hereinafter provided"

does not apply to or control such a policy issued by a corporation of New York in another state in favor of a citizen of the latter state, but is applicable only to business transacted within the New York, and in such case the rights of the parties are measured by the terms of the contract.

Page 179 U. S. 263

On June 10, 1885, the petitioner delivered to Alexander Cohen, in the State of Montana, a life insurance policy for $3,000 conditioned upon the annual payment of a premium of $89.61. Upon it the insured paid premiums up to and including June 10, 1892. No subsequent premiums were paid. On September 21, 1897, he died. His wife, Tine Cohen, was the beneficiary named in the policy.

The application commenced in these words:

"Application for insurance in the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, 140 to 146 Broadway, corner of Liberty Street, New York City, subject to the charter of such company and the laws of said state."

It further contained this provision:

"That if the insurance applied for be granted by the company, the policy, if accepted, will be accepted subject to all the conditions and stipulations contained in the policy. Among those conditions and stipulations was this:"

"Notice that each and every such payment is due at the date named in the policy is given and accepted by the delivery and acceptance of this policy, and any further notice required by any statute is thereby expressly waived."

On November 9, 1898, this action was commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Washington.

The single defense was the nonpayment of premiums after June 11, 1892. There was no suggestion of rescission, abandonment, knowledge by the beneficiary of the nonpayment of the premium, or any refusal or failure on her part in respect to the policy. A demurrer to the answer was sustained, judgment rendered for the amount of the policy, less the unpaid premiums, which judgment was affirmed by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth circuit, 97 F. 985, and thereupon the case was brought here on certiorari.

Page 179 U. S. 264

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