Modern Woodmen of America v. Mixer

Decision Date13 April 1925
Docket NumberNo. 308,308
Citation41 A.L.R. 1384,267 U.S. 544,69 L.Ed. 783,45 S.Ct. 389
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Nelson C. Pratt, of Omaha, Neb., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 544-548 intentionally omitted] Messrs. J. J. McCarthy, of Ponca, Neb., and Geo. W. Leamer, of South Sioux City, Neb., for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 548-550 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit by the beneficiary of a certificate issued by a fraternal beneficiary society incorporated in Illinois. The member to whom the certificate was issued was the plaintiff's husband and the ground of recovery is that the husband had disappeared and had not been heard of for ten years before this suit was brought. His expectancy of life according to the tables had not expired and the defense is a by-law of the Corporation to the effect that:

'Long continued absence of any member unheard of shall not * * * give any right to recover on any benefit certificate * * * until the full term of the member's expectancy of life, according to the National Fraternal Congress Table of Mortality, has expired, * * * and this law shall be in full force and effect any statute of any state or country or rule of common law of any state or country to the contrary notwithstanding.'

The only facts that need be mentioned are that the certificate seems to have been issued in South Dakota, although there was no allegation or proof concerning the law of that State, and that it was issued in 1901, while the by-law relied upon was not adopted until 1908. But the by-law has been held valid and binding upon the members of the Corporation by the Supreme Court of Illinois, although they had become members before the change. Steen v. Modern Woodmen of America, 296 Ill. 104, 129 N. E. 546, 17 A. L. R. 406. The Supreme Court of Nebraska affirmed a judgment for the plaintiff, seemingly, from the cases cited, on the ground either that the rule of evidence must be determined by the lex fori, or, more probably, that the by-law was unreasonable. Mixer v. Modern Woodmen of America, 197 N. W. 129. The result is that if the validity of the by-law ought to be determined by the laws of Illinois, the plaintiff is allowed to recover upon a state of facts which the contract expressly stipulates shall not give her that right. A writ of certiorari was issued by this Court. 265 U. S. 576, 44 S. Ct. 455, 68 L. Ed. 1187.


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    ... ... Green, 59 L.Ed. 1089, 237 U.S. 531, L.R.A ... 1916A, 771; Modern Woodmen of America v. Mizer, 69 ... L.Ed. 783, 267 U.S. 544, 41 A.L.R ... ...
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    ...State.' That a statute is a 'public act' within the meaning of that clause is settled. Modern Woodmen of America v. Mixer, 267 U. S. 544, 550, 551, 45 S. Ct. 389, 69 L. Ed. 783, 41 A. L. R. 1384; AEtna Life Insurance Co. v. Dunken, 266 U. S. 389, 393, 45 S. Ct. 129, 69 L. Ed. 342. See Tenne......
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    ...Natl. Bank v. Farnum, 176 U.S. 640, 20 Sup. Ct. 506, 44 L. Ed. 69; Parker v. Stoughton Mill Co., 91 Wis. 174; Modern Woodmen of America v. Mixer, 267 U.S. 544, 45 Sup. Ct. 389; Sov. Camp W.O.W. v. Shelton, 270 U.S. 628, 46 Sup. Ct. 207; Fowler v. Sov. Camp W.O.W., 106 Neb. 192, 183 N.W. 550......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Jurisdictional Discrimination and Full Faith and Credit
    • United States
    • Emory University School of Law Emory Law Journal No. 63-5, 2014
    • Invalid date
    ...Id. at 543-44. Indeed, the Court treated the membership relationship as more than a contract. See also Modern Woodmen of Am. v. Mixer, 267 U.S. 544, 551 (1925) ("The act of becoming a member is something more than a contract, it is entering into a complex and abiding relation, and as marria......

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