204 U.S. 8 (1907), 57, Old Wayne Mut. Life Association v. McDonough

Docket Nº:No. 57
Citation:204 U.S. 8, 27 S.Ct. 236, 51 L.Ed. 345
Party Name:Old Wayne Mut. Life Association v. McDonough
Case Date:January 07, 1907
Court:United States Supreme Court

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204 U.S. 8 (1907)

27 S.Ct. 236, 51 L.Ed. 345

Old Wayne Mut. Life Association



No. 57

United States Supreme Court

January 7, 1907

Argued October 25, 1906




A statute of Pennsylvania provides:

No insurance company not of this state, nor its agents, shall do business in this state until it has filed with the Insurance Commissioner of this state a written stipulation, duly authenticated by the company, agreeing that any legal process affecting the company, served on the Insurance Commissioner, or the party designated by him, or the agent specified by the company to receive service of process for said company, shall have the same effect as if served personally on the company within this state, and if such company should cease to maintain such agent in this state so designated such process may thereafter be served on the Insurance Commissioner.

An insurance company of Indiana issued a policy of insurance upon the life of a citizen of Pennsylvania, the beneficiaries being also citizens of that Commonwealth. The contract of insurance was made in Indiana without the insurance company having filed the stipulation required by

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the local statute as to service of process upon the Insurance Commissioner of Pennsylvania. A suit was brought on the contract in a Pennsylvania court, process was served on the state Insurance Commissioner alone, a personal judgment taken against the insurance company, and suit brought on that judgment in an Indiana court. The company did some business in Pennsylvania which had no relation to the contract made in Indiana. Held that:

1. If the defendant had no such actual legal notice of the Pennsylvania suit as would bring it into court, or if it did not voluntarily appear therein by an authorized representative, then the Pennsylvania court was without jurisdiction to render a personal judgment against the company.

2. The constitutional requirement that full faith and credit be given in each state to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state is necessarily to be interpreted in connection with other provisions of the Constitution, and therefore no state can obtain in the tribunals of other jurisdictions full faith and credit for its judicial proceedings if they are wanting in the due process of law enjoined by the fundamental law.

3. If the conclusiveness of a judgment or decree in a court of one state is questioned in a court of another government, federal or state, it is open, under proper averments, to inquire whether the court rendering the decree or judgment had jurisdiction to render it.

4. Where an insurance company or corporation of one state goes into another state to transact business in defiance of its statute as to service of process, it will, in an action against it in such state, be held to have assented to the terms prescribed by the local statute for service of process in respect to business done in that state, but its assent in that regard will not be implied as to business not transacted in that state.

5. If a personal judgment be rendered in one state against a corporation of another state, bringing such corporation into court, that is, without any legal notice to the latter of the suit and without its having appeared therein in person or by attorney or agent, it is void for want of due process of law.

164 Ind. 321 reversed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

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HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action in an Indiana court against the plaintiff in error upon a judgment against it in a Pennsylvania court. The decisive questions in the case have reference to the clause of the Constitution of the United States, requiring full faith and credit to be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of other states, and, also, to the clause forbidding [27 S.Ct. 237] the deprivation by a state of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. There was a judgment for the plaintiffs, which was affirmed by the supreme court of the state.

The questions before us arise out of facts now to be stated.

On the twenty-second day of February, 1900, the defendants in error brought an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, against the Old Wayne Mutual Life Association of Indianapolis, an Indiana corporation, upon a certificate or policy of life insurance dated December third 1897, whereby that association agreed to pay to Winnifred Herrity and Sarah McDonough, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, or their legal representatives, the sum of $5,000 upon the condition, among others, that if the person whose life was insured -- Patrick McNally, of Scranton, Pennsylvania -- should die within one year from the date of the certificate, then Herrity and McDonough should not receive more than one-fourth of the above sum. McNally died on the fourteenth day of November, 1898.

A summons, addressed to the Sheriff of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, was sued out and the following return thereof was made:

Served the Old Wayne Mutual Life Association

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of Indianapolis, Indiana, an insurance company incorporated under the laws of the State of Indiana, by giving, September 26, 1900, a true and attested copy of the within writ to Israel W. Durham, Insurance Commissioner for the State of Pennsylvania, and making known to him the contents thereof, the said association having no attorney in the State of Pennsylvania upon whom service could be made.

It does not appear, if the fact be material, that any notice of this summons was given by the commissioner to the defendant.

Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed a declaration or statement in the Pennsylvania case, which contained, among other things, the following:

That the said the Old Wayne Mutual Life Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, defendant, is a mutual life insurance association, foreign to the State of Pennsylvania, to-wi, of the State of Indiana, as aforesaid, and as such has been doing business of life insurance in the State of Pennsylvania, more particularly in the Counties of Susquehanna and Lackawanna, in said State of Pennsylvania, issuing policies of life insurance to numerous and divers residents of said counties and state for many years, upon application therefor taken in said Counties of Susquehanna and Lackawanna, and was transacting such business of life insurance in said state and counties on the third day of December, 1897, and before and since till July 5, 1900, and after. That the said the Old Wayne Mutual Life Association has no duly appointed agent in said County of Susquehanna, State of Pennsylvania, for the acceptance of service of process other than the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Pennsylvania. The writ of summons in this action, duly issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County, directing the said defendant, the Old Wayne Mutual Life Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, to appear and answer, was legally and duly served on the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Pennsylvania on the twenty-sixth day of September, 1900, the said Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Pennsylvania being the proper person for service in this case.

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This was followed by a notice in that case addressed to the Insurance Commissioner, and stating that judgment would be taken if no appearance was entered or an affidavit of defense filed by the association within fifteen days after service of that notice. At a later date, the Insurance Commissioner not having appeared and no affidavit of defense having been filed, judgment was taken against the life association, by default, April 16, 1901.

The present action was brought on that judgment. The complaint in this case, filed June 21, 1900, alleged that the defendant association was, on the third day of December, 1897, and long prior and subsequent thereto, engaged in the transaction of business in Pennsylvania. After setting out the provisions of the statute of Pennsylvania (to be presently referred to), the issuing of the policy, the death of McNally, and the making of the requisite proofs of loss, the complaint alleged that process in the Pennsylvania case was served upon the Insurance Commissioner for Pennsylvania, "the said defendant having no other agent or attorney upon whom process could be served in said State of Pennsylvania."

The defendant demurred to the complaint as insufficient in law, but the demurrer was overruled. It then filed its answer, denying "each and every material allegation" in the complaint. In a separate paragraph, it alleged that its only offices for the transaction of business were and at all times had been at Indianapolis, Indiana, where its officers had always resided; that it had never been admitted to do business in Pennsylvania, and never had an office or agency there for the transaction of business; that no one of its officers or agents was in that commonwealth at the date of the alleged suit, nor had been there since; that no summons was ever served upon it at any [27 S.Ct. 238] time, and that it did not appear in that action; that no one ever appeared for it there who had authority to do so, and that the first notice or knowledge it ever had of the alleged judgment against it was long after the day when it appears to have been rendered.

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The plaintiffs replied, denying each and every material allegation of the answer.

The plaintiff in error insists that the Pennsylvania court had no jurisdiction to proceed against it; consequently the judgment it rendered was void for the want of the due process of law required by the Fourteenth...

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