Insurance Company v. Dunn

Decision Date01 October 1873
Citation19 Wall. 214,86 U.S. 214,22 L.Ed. 68
PartiesINSURANCE COMPANY v. DUNN
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

ERROR to the First Judicial District Court of Hamilton County, Ohio; the case being thus:

The Judiciary Act of 1789,1 thus enacts:

'If a suit be commenced in any State court by a citizen of the State in which the suit is brought against a citizen of another State, . . . and the defendant shall at the time of entering his appearance in such State court file a petition for the removal of the cause for trial into the next Circuit Court, to be held in the district where the suit is pending, &c., . . . it shall then be the duty of the State court . . . to proceed no further in the cause.'

Then came an act of July 27th, 1866.2 It was thus:

'If in any suit . . . in any State court by a citizen of the State in which the suit is brought against a citizen of another State, . . . a citizen of the State in which the suit is brought is or shall be a defendant, and if the suit, so far as relates . . . to the defendant who is the citizen of a State other than that in which the suit is brought, is or has been instituted or prosecuted for the purpose of restraining or enjoining him, or if the suit is one in which there can be a final determination of the controversy, so far as it concerns him, without the presence of the other defendants as parties in the cause, then, and in every such case, . . . the defendant who is a citizen of a State other than that in which the suit is brought, may, at any time before the trial or final hearing of the cause, file a petition for the removal of the cause as against him into the next Circuit Court of the United States to be held in the district where the suit is pending, . . . and it shall be thereupon the duty of the State court to . . . proceed no further in the cause as against the defendant so applying for its removal.'

Finally came an act of March 2d, 1867.3 Its title is,

'An act to amend an act entitled 'An act for the removal of causes in certain cases from State courts," approved July 27th, 1866.

It runs thus:

'Be it enacted, That the act entitled 'An act for the removal of causes in certain cases from State courts,' approved July 27th, 1866, be and the same is hereby amended as follows: That where a suit may hereafter be brought in any State court, in which there is controversy between a citizen of the State in which the suit is brought and a citizen of another State, such citizen of another State, whether he be plaintiff or defendant, if he will make and file in such State court an affidavit, stating that he has reason to and does believe that from prejudice or local influence he will not be able to obtain justice in such State court, may, at any time before the final hearing or trial of the suit, file a petition in such State court for the removal of the suit into the next Circuit Court of the United States, to be held in the district where the suit is pending, . . . and it shall be, thereupon, the duty of the State court to . . . proceed no further in the suit.'

Each of these three acts enacts that after the case is removed, in the way which they respectively provide, into the Circuit Court of the United States, it shall there proceed in the same manner as if it had been brought in that court by original process.

These statutes being in force, Mrs. Dunn, widow and administratrix of John Dunn, sued the Home Life Insurance Company of Brooklyn, in one of the courts of common pleas of Ohio, on a policy of insurance for $2000 on her husband's life, and obtained a verdict against the company. The company moved to set aside the verdict and for a new trial. But upon consideration the court overruled the motion; and it was 'therefore considered by the court that the plaintiff recover her damages herein assessed, and the costs to be taxed.'

This, of course, in any court proceeding in the course of the common law, would have been the end of all 'trials,' or of other relief to the insurance company, except such as it might have provided for itself through writ of error.

But the law of Ohio respecting second trials is somewhat peculiar. The matter does not, as at common law, and in most of the States, rest in the discretion of the court trying the case, but rests in the option of the suitor himself. One of the statutes of the State,4 known as the Second Trial Act, thus enacts:

'SECTION 1. A second trial may be demanded and had in any civil action which has been . . . instituted in any court of common pleas in this State, in which said court has original jurisdiction, and in which either party has the right by law to demand a trial by jury . . . and after a judgment or final order has been rendered, upon the terms and in the manner hereinafter provided.

'SECTION 2. Any person desirous of such second trial . . . shall at the term of the court at which judgment was rendered, enter . . . into an undertaking within the time hereinafter limited, with security . . . payable to the adverse party in such sum as may be fixed by the court, and conditioned to the effect that the party obtaining such second trial shall abide and perform the order and judgment of the court, and pay all moneys, costs, and damages which may be required or awarded against him consequent upon such second trial.'

Under this statute of the State, the insurance company after trial and judgment demanded and had leave to have 'a second trial.' The company gave a bond in $4000, conditioned that it should abide and perform the judgment of the court, and pay all moneys which might be required of or awarded against it consequent upon a second trial by the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County.

At the next term of the court the company—assuming that, notwithstanding the trial already had, they had (in virtue of their demand for a second trial and their leave to have it) not yet had a 'final hearing or trial'—filed a petition in the Court of Common Pleas, where the case had been tried, to remove it into the Circuit Court, under the last of the above-quoted acts of Congress, the act, namely, of 1867, quoted on pages 215-16. And the Court of Common Pleas ordered the removal, and that no further proceedings should be had before it. A transcript of the record was accordingly filed in the Circuit Court, and the cause docketed there. Mrs. Dunn, by her counsel, now appeared in that court and moved to dismiss the case, as not having been one for removal under any of the acts of Congress.

The ground of her motion apparently was that the petition for removal had been too late; that it should have been before the trial in the Common Pleas; that under the act of 1789 a defendant desiring to remove was bound to petition for a removal, if he wanted one, 'at the time of entering his appearance;' that under that of 1866, 'at any time before the trial or final hearing of the cause,' and that though in the act of 1867 there was a slight transposition of words, so as to read 'at any time before the final hearing or trial of the suit,' the meaning in both acts was the same, the words 'final hearing' referring to proceedings in equity, and the word 'trial' to a proceeding at common law; and even if this were not so, that the case was the same, for that the company had had a final trial; that Congress could not be supposed to have had reference to the very peculiar local law of Ohio, about trials, of which perhaps not ten of its members had ever heard, but was to be taken to have referred to the general system of the common law, which came to us all by inheritance, and still so widely prevailed over the nation; that thus viewed the company had had a final trial; for it had had a trial on merits before a jury, it had moved for an it had been refused a new trial and a judgment had been entered against it, which was now in existence, a lien upon its property; that the words 'final trial' were used in contradistinction to the words 'interlocutory trial,' and this trial not having been interlocutory was final. Further than this, that if the application for removal, after a second trial was taken, was in time to be within the terms of the act of March 2d, 1867, then that the act violated the seventh amendment to the Constitution, which reads thus:

'In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law.'

It was said that one branch of this suit was a suit at common law, and that the amount in controversy exceeded twenty dollars; and that all of the facts in the case were tried by a jury, and their verdict was affirmed before the case was removed into the Circuit Court for these same facts to be re-examined there, for a cause and under a proceeding not known to the common law, nor within any of its rules.

It was said further, that the law of March 2d, 1867, was unconstitutional for another reason, to wit, that it destroyed the second trial bond that had been given in the State court to secure the claim being litigated, without the process of law, and without consideration or any equivalent bond being substituted; that the condition of the bond to pay a judgment to be obtained at a second trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Ohio, was not answered by a judgment obtained in the Circuit Court, and that the sureties on the bond would not be liable to answer to such a judgment.

But the Circuit Court was not of this view; and so, overruling the motion to dismiss, it retained the cause upon its docket.

Mrs. Dunn then filed an amended declaration in the Circuit Court, and that was now pending there.

She now went back into the State courts, and by petition for error filed in the District Court of Hamilton County (a court superior to the Common Pleas, and having in general jurisdiction to review its orders5), prayed for a reversal...

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