Maryland Casualty Co v. Pacific Coal Oil Co, No. 194

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMURPHY
Citation85 L.Ed. 826,61 S.Ct. 510,312 U.S. 270
Docket NumberNo. 194
Decision Date03 February 1941
PartiesMARYLAND CASUALTY CO. v. PACIFIC COAL & OIL CO. et al

312 U.S. 270
61 S.Ct. 510
85 L.Ed. 826
MARYLAND CASUALTY CO.

v.

PACIFIC COAL & OIL CO. et al.

No. 194.
Argued Jan. 9, 1941.
Decided Feb. 3, 1941.

Page 271

Messrs. Parker Fulton and Paca Oberlin, both of Cleveland, Ohio, for petitioner.

No appearance for respondents.

Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner issued a conventional liability policy to the insured, the Pacific Coal & Oil Co., in which it agreed to indemnify the insured for any sums the latter might be required to pay to third parties for injuries to person and property caused by automobiles hired by the insured. Petitioner also agreed that it would defend any action covered by the policy which was brought against the insured to recover damages for such injuries.

While the policy was in force, a collision occurred between an automobile driven by respondent Orteca and a truck driven by an employee of the insured. Orteca brought an action in an Ohio state court against the insured to recover damages resulting from injuries sustained in this collision. Apparently this action has not proceeded to judgment.

Petitioner then brought this action against the insured and Orteca. Its complaint set forth the facts detailed above and further alleged that at the time of the collision the employee of the insured was driving a truck sold to him by the insured on a conditional sales contract.

Page 272

Petitioner claimed that this truck was not one 'hired by the insured,' and hence that it was not liable to defend the action by orteca against the insured or to indemnify the latter if Orteca prevailed. It sought a declaratory judgment to this effect against the insured and Orteca, and a temporary injunction restraining the proceedings in the state court pending final judgment in this suit.

Orteca demurred to the complaint on the ground that it did not state a cause of action against him. The District Court sustained his demurrer and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 6 Cir., 111 F.2d 214. We granted certiorari on October 14, 1940, 311 U.S. 625, 61 S.Ct. 25, 85 L.Ed. —-, to resolve the conflict with the decisions of other Circuit Courts of Appeals cited in the note.1

The question is whether petitioner's allegations are sufficient to entitle it to the declaratory relief prayed in its complaint. This raises the question whether there is an 'actual controversy' within the meaning of the Declaratory Judgment Act, Judicial Code § 274d, 28 U.S.C. § 400, 28 U.S.C.A. § 400, since the District Court is without power to grant declaratory relief unless such a controversy exists. Nashville, etc., Ry. Co. v. Wallace, 288 U.S. 249, 259, 53 S.Ct. 345, 346, 77 L.Ed. 730, 87 A.L.R. 1191; U.S.C.A. Constitution, Art. III, § 2.

Page 273

The difference between an abstract question and a 'controversy' contemplated by the Declaratory Judgment Act is necessarily one of degree, and it would be difficult, if it would be possible, to fashion a precise test for determining in every case whether there is such a controversy. Basically, the question in each case is whether the facts alleged, under all the circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment. See Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 239-242, 57 S.Ct. 461,...

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2556 practice notes
  • Ingebretsen v. Jackson Public School Dist., No. 3:94-cv-411WS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • September 2, 1994
    ...developments, or where the plaintiff has no standing to maintain the action. In Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 1941, 312 U.S. 270, 61 S.Ct. 510, 85 L.Ed. 826, the Supreme Court emphasized that the difference between an abstract question and a "controversy" contemplated by ......
  • 44 274 Ellis v. Dyson 8212 130, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1975
    ...immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment." ibid., quoting Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 512, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941). III The principles and approach of Steffel are applicable here. The District Court and the Cou......
  • Sierra Club v. Morton, No. 74-1389
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 16, 1975
    ...between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality." Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 512, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941). See also Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148-149, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (19......
  • Ford Motor Co. v. United States, Slip Op. 11–130.Court No.: 09–00375.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of International Trade
    • October 18, 2011
    ...v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 127, 127 S.Ct. 764, 166 L.Ed.2d 604 (2007) (quoting Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941)). The court's “analysis must begin with the recognition that, where threatened action by government is ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2555 cases
  • Ingebretsen v. Jackson Public School Dist., No. 3:94-cv-411WS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • September 2, 1994
    ...developments, or where the plaintiff has no standing to maintain the action. In Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 1941, 312 U.S. 270, 61 S.Ct. 510, 85 L.Ed. 826, the Supreme Court emphasized that the difference between an abstract question and a "controversy" contemplated by ......
  • 44 274 Ellis v. Dyson 8212 130, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1975
    ...immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment." ibid., quoting Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 512, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941). III The principles and approach of Steffel are applicable here. The District Court and the Cou......
  • Sierra Club v. Morton, No. 74-1389
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 16, 1975
    ...between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality." Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 512, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941). See also Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148-149, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (19......
  • Ford Motor Co. v. United States, Slip Op. 11–130.Court No.: 09–00375.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of International Trade
    • October 18, 2011
    ...v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 127, 127 S.Ct. 764, 166 L.Ed.2d 604 (2007) (quoting Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941)). The court's “analysis must begin with the recognition that, where threatened action by government is ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Last Dance: Righting the Supreme Court's Greatest Bankruptcy Apostasy.
    • United States
    • American Bankruptcy Law Journal Vol. 96 Nbr. 2, March 2022
    • March 22, 2022
    ...immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment") (citing Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co, 312 U.S. 270, 273 (247) See American Household Prod., Inc. v. Evans Mfg., Inc., 139 F.Supp.2d 1235, 1239 (N.D. Ala. 2001). (248) E.g., Pacific Enters Oi......

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