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RUHLIN V. NEW YORK LIFE INS. CO., 304 U. S. 202 (1938)

U.S. Supreme Court

Ruhlin v. New York Life Ins. Co., 304 U.S. 202 (1938)

Ruhlin v. New York Life Insurance Co.

No. 596

Argued March 10, 1938

Decided May 2, 1938

304 U.S. 202


1. Where an insurance policy, by its terms, is incontestable after a time limited except for nonpayment of premium and "except as to provisions and conditions relating to disability and double indemnity benefits," the question whether the latter exception embraces, and excludes from the limitation, the right of the insurer to rescind the agreement to pay disability and double indemnity benefits because of fraud in the application is not a question of "general law" which a federal court may determine independently, but a question of state law which the federal court must determine in accordance with the decisions of the appropriate state court. Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, ante p. 304 U. S. 64. P. 304 U. S. 204.

2. The doctrine of Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins is applicable to a question of construction of a contract arising in a suit in equity. P. 304 U. S. 205.

3. Conflict among the Circuit Courts of Appeals on questions of state law is not, of itself, a reason for granting a writ of certiorari. P. 304 U. S. 206.

Page 304 U. S. 203

4. The petition in this case did not show, as a basis for certiorari, that the important question of local law involved was decided below "in a way probably in conflict with applicable local decision," or that the decision was "probably untenable," and therefore probably in conflict with the state law as yet undeclared by the highest court of the State. Rule 38(5)(b).

5. Where a suit dependent on the construction of an insurance policy was presented and decided below on the mistaken assumption that the construction was a question of "general" or "federal" law, this Court, on certiorari, declined to decide upon the rule of state law applicable, but vacated the judgment and remanded the cause to the District Court for further proceedings in conformity with the opinion and with directions to permit such amendments of the pleadings as might be necessary for that purpose. P. 304 U. S. 206.

93 F.2d 416 reversed.

Certiorari, 302 U.S. 681, to review the affirmance of an interlocutory decree enjoining the institution of actions on certain insurance policies, including an action in a state court, pending the determination of a suit to cancel the policies in part for fraud.

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