Moss v. Equitable Life Ins. Co.

Decision Date08 June 1934
Docket NumberNo. 9812.,9812.
Citation71 F.2d 795
PartiesMOSS v. EQUITABLE LIFE INS. CO. OF IOWA.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

George B. Whissell and Edward W. Tobin, both of St. Louis, Mo., for appellant.

Sears Lehmann, of St. Louis, Mo. (Henry & Henry, of Des Moines, Iowa, on the brief), for appellee.

Before STONE and SANBORN, Circuit. Judges, and WYMAN, District Judge.

WYMAN, District Judge.

This is an appeal from a decree of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri in a proceeding which was originally instituted by Equitable Life Insurance Company of Iowa as an interpleader suit, based upon a certain life insurance policy issued upon the life of one Herman Y. Moss, in the sum of $10,000, and containing the ordinary provision for the payment of double the face amount of the policy upon proof of the death of the insured as a result of violent, external, and accidental means.

The bill of complaint, among other things, alleges the death of the insured and admits the liability of the plaintiff for $10,000, the face of the policy. The bill also names R. Morton Moss, individually and as trustee, and Martha N. Moss, as adverse claimants of the fund, and concludes with a prayer for the relief usually asked in interpleader suits.

The defendants filed separate answers and cross-bills each of which, among other things, alleges that insured's death was caused by accidental means; that plaintiff is liable under the double indemnity clause of the policy in the sum of $20,000, and praying that the petition be dismissed and the suit terminated without prejudice, or, in the alternative, that the action be permitted to continue solely on the cross-bills of the defendants and for judgment against the plaintiff in the sum of $20,000, and other relief.

Plaintiff filed a reply to the answers and cross-bills denying any liability in excess of $10,000, alleging that insured came to his death by suicide intentionally and deliberately committed while sane, and asking for the relief prayed for in the complaint. Defendants filed separate rejoinder specifically denying the allegations of the reply and asking for the relief prayed for in the cross-bills.

On February 4, 1932, the parties to the suit entered into a stipulation which reads, in part, as follows: "Come now all the parties plaintiff and defendant to this cause of action by their respective and duly authorized attorneys of record, and, in an endeavor to speed the trial of this cause, stipulate and agree to a trial and hearing at this time separately of the issue raised by the pleadings of the parties with respect to the right of plaintiff to an order of interpleader and further with respect to the determination of the extent and amount of liability of plaintiff to whichever of the interpleading defendants as may be later finally determined to be entitled to the proceeds of a certain insurance policy No. 321677 issued by plaintiff to one Herman Y. Moss and more fully described in the pleadings filed herein according to their respective interpleas, and further agree to a determination thereof by the Court, without aid or intervention of a jury, whatever rights any party hereto has or may have to a jury for the trial of this issue being hereby expressly waived." And the case was tried to the court without a jury pursuant to said stipulation. The trial resulted in findings of fact and conclusions of law in favor of the plaintiff, and on June 13, 1932, after the deposit in court by plaintiff of $10,000, the face amount of the policy, together with accrued interest, in accordance with said findings of fact and conclusions of law, a decree was entered canceling the policy in suit and discharging plaintiff from any further liability thereon. The differences between the defendants were adjusted subsequent to the entry of the decree and R. Morton Moss, as trustee, acquired all interest in the avails of the policy of insurance formerly claimed by his codefendant, Martha N. Moss, and he, alone, has appealed to this court.

The first question presented is that raised by appellee's contention that the appeal should be dismissed because not taken within the time provided by the statute. The record discloses that on June 1, 1932, the chancellor made and entered his findings of fact and conclusions of law. No formal decree, however, was entered until June 13, 1932. On June 6, 1932, and prior to the entry of the final decree, defendants filed a joint motion "to set aside certain of the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, and the order and judgment based thereon, and for a rehearing and new trial." It does not appear, however, that this motion was ever heard or passed on by the court. On September 12, 1932, the defendants filed a joint motion to set aside the findings of fact and conclusions of law and decree, and for rehearing and new trial. It appears that this motion was filed just within three months from the date of the entry of the decree, and, among other grounds, it challenged the validity of the decree for the reason it was entered without ruling on the prior motion, and without notice to the defendants. This motion was denied by the court on the 15th day of February, 1933, and on May 13, 1933, just within three months from the order overruling motion for new trial, the appeal was taken.

While it is well settled that a motion for a new trial in a law case, made with reasonable promptness after the entry of judgment, will toll the beginning of the statutory time within which an appeal can be taken, the benefits of this rule...

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