Bryant v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 8 Div. 600.

Decision Date28 February 1935
Docket Number8 Div. 600.
Citation230 Ala. 80,159 So. 685
PartiesBRYANT v. HARTFORD FIRE INS. CO. et al.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Appeal from Circuit Court, Marshall County; A. E. Hawkins, Judge.

Action for malicious prosecution by Charles Talmadge Bryant against the Hartford Fire Insurance Company and others. From a judgment for defendants, plaintiff appeals.

Reversed and remanded.

Interrogatory to insurance company, in malicious prosecution action against insurance company for arrest of plaintiff on charge of arson as to communications between insurance company and state fire marshal made pursuant to law, held improper, since public policy demanded that such reports be unhampered in public interest (Code 1923, § 7772).

Count 1 of the complaint is as follows:

"The plaintiff claims of the defendants, Hartford Fire Insurance Company, a corporation, Chester Raines, Ester Raines and John B. Tillery and Chester Johnson, Ten thousand dollars damages for maliciously and without probable cause therefor, causing the plaintiff to be indicted by the grand jury of Marshall County, Alabama, organized by and as a part of the Circuit Court of said County for the Fall Term 1930, of said Circuit Court on a charge in substance:
"'The Grand Jury of said County charge that, before the finding of this indictment, C. T. Bryant, alias Tol Bryant, whose name to the Grand Jury is otherwise unknown than as stated, with intent to defraud, wilfully set fire to or burned, or caused to be burned, or aided or procured the burning of, a dwelling house, the property of himself, against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama.'
"and to be arrested under a warrant or writ of arrest issued by Woodie Lewis, Clerk of said Court on the 15th day of October, 1930, on said indictment charging this plaintiff with the crime of arson and which charge, before the commencement of this action, has been judicially investigated and said prosecution ended and this plaintiff discharged."

Count 2 alleges that: "The defendant, Hartford Fire Insurance Company, a corporation, by and through its then agent and servant, Chester Raines, acting under authority of said corporation, or within the scope of his authority as agent, or by ratification or approval or acquiescence by said corporation, and the other defendants acting for themselves and all acting in concert and for a common purpose, wrongfully and maliciously and without probable cause therefor did cause the plaintiff to be indicted," etc.

Plaintiff propounded the following interrogatories to defendant, Hartford Fire Insurance Company:

"17th. When and how did you first learn in you Home Office that the property of C. T. Bryant covered by your fire insurance policy had been destroyed by fire? From whom did you learn this and how? And if by written communication other than by formal proof or notice of loss required by your policies will you please attach the same copy to your answers marked so it can be identified? Did you have any communication from your agent at Albertville (C. F. Raines) other than a regular formal notice of the loss or the burning of the house of the plaintiff before the payment or settlement of the policy? If so, please attach the paper or a copy thereof to your answer so marked that it can be identified.

"18th. Through what Branch Office of your Company was your business of Fire Insurance concerning the policy issued to C. T. Bryant conducted? If any such communication as inquired about in the preceding interrogatory 17th was received in such Branch Office please attach the same or a copy to your answer hereto so it can be identified.

"19th. Did you at your Home Office or Branch Office at any time after the payment or settlement of the loss by fire of the house of C. T. Bryant have any communication or communications from any agent or sub-agent or employee, verbal, written or by telephone or telegram, from your agent at Albertville or elsewhere concerning the burning of Bryant's house or the claim for the loss, or concerning the recovery of the money or the institution of any suit or prosecution of Bryant or anyone else about, for or concerning the fire or the cause thereof? If so, please attach the same or a copy thereof to your answer so marked as to identify it or them.

"20th. State whether or not you had or received at your Home or Branch office through which you carried on your correspondence with C. F. Raines at Albertville or transacted your insurance business in and around Albertville one or more communications from C. F. Raines concerning the insurance of Bryant's house or the burning of the house and after the burning and settlement or payment of the loss, from C. F. or Chester F. Raines. If so, attach said communication or copies to your answer so marked as to identify them. And you will also attach any and all answers made by any officer, manager or superintendent of your Home or Branch Office to C. F. Raines concerning the investigation, prosecution or arrest of anyone supposed or charged or suggested by him as being connected with such burning.

"21st. State whether or not at any time after the burning of Bryant's house and before the commencement of this suit you did through your Home or Branch Office write to the Fire Marshall or the Fire Marshall's office of the State of Alabama any letter of or concerning the burning of C. T. Bryant's house or the investigation thereof. If so, attach a copy of each letter you so wrote and the answers thereto if you received any answer.

"22nd. You have at your Home or Branch Office a letter or statement of C. F. Raines or Chester F. Raines concerning the making by him, or anyone else of any charge against C. T. Bryant by this or any other name for the burning of his home, or for the investigation of the burning of his house or for the employment of a detective or so called investigator for such purpose or for gathering the facts or inquiring into the facts concerning such burning or the laying of such facts or information secured before the solicitor or the Grand Jury? If you have, please attach the original or a copy of each and every such communication and your reply thereto, either from your Home or Branch Office.

"23rd. You will please answer whether your company or any of its officers or managers of the Home Office or Branch Office had or received any message written, by letter or telegram from Chester F. Raines informing the company, Home or Branch Office, officer or manager that a charge had been or would be made against C. T. Bryant, the plaintiff herein, for having burned his house insured by your company. If you did you will please attach the original or a copy thereof to your answer hereto so marked and numbered as to be identified. If you received more than one you will please attach the original or a copy of all of them in the order of their date. You will please attach a copy of your answer to each of these communications."

John A. Lusk & Son, of Guntersville, for appellant.

O. D. Street, of Guntersville, Estes Doremus, of Atlanta, Ga., and Steiner, Crum & Weil, of Montgomery, for appellees.

BOULDIN Justice.

Count 1 claims of defendants damages "for maliciously and without probable cause therefor, causing the plaintiff to be indicted by the grand jury * * * on a charge in substance: (setting out the indictment for arson) and to be arrested under a warrant or writ of arrest issued * * * on said indictment," etc.

The Code form of complaint for malicious prosecution...

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10 cases
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