New Century Casualty Co. v. Chase

Decision Date10 July 1941
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 148.
Citation39 F. Supp. 768
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia


Wilbert H. Norton, of Huntington, W. Va., for plaintiff.

Musgrave & Blessing, of Point Pleasant, W. Va., for defendants Winnie Chase, adm'x of estate of John J. Chase, deceased, and W. W. Rowsey, Sheriff of Mason County, W. Va., and as such adm'r of estate of Edward S. Chase, deceased.

Jackson G. F. Johnson, of Point Pleasant, W. Va., for L. L. McClure, guardian ad litem of Helen Diddle, an infant.

HARRY E. WATKINS, District Judge.

Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that a certain automobile liability insurance policy issued by it to John J. Chase was not in effect at the date of accident in which one person was killed and two others were injured. Defendants answered, and plaintiff then moved for summary judgment. The case has been submitted to me for decision upon the pleadings, plaintiff's depositions, and an agreed statement of facts.

Three questions are raised by the pleadings as follows: (1) Is there more than $3,000 involved? (2) Is there a controversy within meaning of act? and (3) Was policy in effect at date of accident?

Pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c, I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

Findings of Fact.

On November 19, 1939, plaintiff, an Illinois corporation, issued to John J. Chase, doing business as Chase Insurance Agency, a resident of West Virginia, its national standard automobile liability policy, covering a Buick sedan automobile owned by John J. Chase. The policy insured against injury liability to the extent of $5,000 each person, and $10,000 limit for each accident. It became effective November 19, 1939, and the premium thereon was paid for one year. John J. Chase, the insured, died intestate on March 24, 1940, leaving surviving as his next of kin and heirs at law, a son, Edward S. Chase, and his wife, Winnie Chase.

1. Prior to his death, John J. Chase was the plaintiff's licensed insurance agent at Point Pleasant, W. Va. The automobile covered was used for pleasure and in connection with the business of the insured. The words "Chase Insurance Agency" were painted on the side of the automobile. Edward S. Chase, the son of assured, was an insurance solicitor and collector for the agency in connection with policies issued by plaintiff.

2. The insurance contract contained the following provisions under "Conditions", Section 6:

"6. Assignment. No assignment of interest under this policy shall bind the company until its consent is endorsed hereon; if, however, the named insured shall die or be adjudged bankrupt or insolvent within the policy period, this policy, unless cancelled, shall if written notice be given to the company within thirty days after the date of such death or adjudication, cover (1) the named insured's legal representative as the named insured, and (2) subject otherwise to the provisions of Paragraph III, any person having proper temporary custody of the automobile as an insured, until the appointment and qualification of such legal representative, but in no event for a period of more than thirty days after the date of such death or adjudication."

3. On March 27, 1940, Edward S. Chase advised plaintiff by letter of his father's death, and, upon request to carry on the agency in his own name, was permitted to do so. He was licensed as an agent of plaintiff through the insurance department of the State of West Virginia on April 1, 1940.

4. On May 19, 1940, while the defendant Arthur Goodwin was driving a car, accompanied by Edward S. Chase and Helen Diddle, the automobile ran off the road and struck a bridge near Point Pleasant, causing the death of Edward S. Chase, and injuries to Helen Diddle. Thereafter Helen Diddle, through her counsel, asserted a claim for her injuries, which she offered to compromise for $3,000, charging that the automobile involved was covered, so far as her injuries were concerned, by the insurance policy issued by plaintiff. Likewise Winnie Chase, Administratrix of the estate of John J. Chase, claimed that the insurance policy was in full force and effect at the date of the accident, and demanded that the plaintiff defend any suit or suits that might be instituted against her growing out of such accident, and pay any judgments thereon. On the contrary, the plaintiff denied that the insurance policy was in effect at the date of accident, denied that it was required to defend any suits growing out of such accident, and denied any liability for injuries.

5. No legal or personal representative of the estate of John J. Chase was appointed until May 27, 1940, more than two months after his death and about one week after the accident. On that date Winnie Chase was appointed administratrix of his estate.

6. No legal or personal representative was appointed for Edward S. Chase until October 31, 1940, when W. W. Rowsey, Sheriff, was appointed as such administrator.

7. No assignment was made of the interests of John J. Chase, doing business as Chase Insurance Agency, in such insurance policy, and no transfer of such interests to any one was approved by the plaintiff.

8. After this action was instituted, Helen Diddle, defendant, instituted a suit in the Circuit Court of Mason County, West Virginia, against Winnie Chase, Administratrix of the estate of John J. Chase, deceased, for the amount of $3,000 for injuries received in such accident.

9. Upon the filing of this action, plaintiff paid the sum of $13.70 into court, this being the unearned pro-rata premium on such policy from April 24, 1940.

Conclusions of Law.

(1) The matter in controversy in this action exceeds $3,000.

The complaint alleges that the matter in controversy exceeds $3,000. Since this allegation is not traversed in the answers, or amended answer, it must be taken as true. The amended answer filed on behalf of Helen Diddle merely says that since the declaratory judgment proceeding was started, she has filed suit in the state court, and asked for damages of only $3,000, and that for this reason alone this court does not have jurisdiction. She does not deny that more than $3,000 was in controversy at the time this proceeding was instituted, and does not deny that there are matters in controversy in addition to the payment of her claim. A general allegation in the complaint as to the amount in controversy when not traversed is sufficient, unless qualified by other allegations which require dismissal. Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 59 S.Ct. 725, 729, 83 L.Ed. 1111. Events occurring...

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12 cases
  • Allstate Ins. Co. v. Thompson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Arkansas
    • May 29, 1954
    ...the amount in controversy where a declaratory judgment is sought on an automobile liability insurance policy. New Century Casualty Co. v. Chase, D.C.W.Va., 39 F.Supp. 768, 771; Builders & Manufacturers Mut. Casualty Co. v. Paquette, D.C.Maine, 21 F.Supp. 858, 864. And, apparently that is th......
  • Wilkins v. Inland Mutual Insurance Company
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • March 3, 1958
    ...Insurance Law and Practice, 150; Collins v. Northwest Casualty Co., 180 Wash. 347, 39 P.2d 986, 97 A.L.R. 1235; New Century Casualty Co. v. Chase, D.C.W.Va., 39 F.Supp. 768; Bornbaum v. Employers' Liability Assur. Co., 311 Mass. 282, 41 N.E.2d 54; Frankel v. Allied Mutuals Liability Insuran......
  • Johnson v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • March 21, 1960
    ...56.17(19) at 2209 (2d ed. 1953). See also Farm Bureau Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Hammer, 4 Cir., 1949, 177 F.2d 793; New Century Cas. Co. v. Chase, D.C.S.D.W.Va.1941, 39 F.Supp. 768. The only issues before the District Court were legal in nature, involving the admissibility of the deposition te......
  • Morgan v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • December 22, 1966
    ...for jurisdictional purposes if the maximum amount for which the insurer could be held liable under the policy. New Century Casualty Co. v. Chase, 39 F.Supp. 768 (S.D.W.Va. 1941). The amount of the claim is not controlling here, for the action seeks a declaratory judgment of rights and/or re......
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