The Lafayette Insurance Company, Plaintiff In Error v. Maynard French, Edward Strong, and Thomas Fine

Decision Date01 December 1855
Citation18 How. 404,15 L.Ed. 451,59 U.S. 404
PartiesTHE LAFAYETTE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR, v. MAYNARD FRENCH, EDWARD K. STRONG, AND THOMAS B. FINE
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

THIS case was brought up, by a writ of error, from the circuit court of the United States for the district of Indiana.

In 1836, the legislature of Indiana chartered the Lafayette Insurance Company with the usual powers of a company to insure against losses by fire. Their principal office or place of business was at Lafayette, in Indiana, but they also had an office at Cincinnati, in the county of Hamilton and State of Ohio. At the latter place, the agent issued a policy to the defendants in error, to insure certain property against fire, which was afterwards consumed. An action was brought upon the policy in Ohio, the process being served upon the agent, and a judgment was entered against the company. Upon a record of this judgment, an action was brought in the circuit court of the United States, in Indiana, and judgment again entered against the company.

Upon the trial the plaintiffs offered in evidence a copy of the record of the case, as tried in Ohio, to the introduction of which the defendant objected for the following reasons, namely:——

1. Because said judgment record shows and evidences a judgment recovered against 'The President, Directors, and Company of the Lafayette Insurance Company,' and does not show or evidence the recovery of a judgment against this defendant.

2. Because said judgment record does not show or evidence the service of process upon this defendant as required by law, nor the appearance of this defendant by attorney, or otherwise in said action or suit in said commercial court, and that said judgment, as a judgment, is therefore a nullity.

3. Because the said judgment record does not evidence the existence of rendition of a judgment in personam against said defendant.

But the court admitted the evidence. Some of the counts in the declaration being upon the policy as well as the record, the plaintiffs then introduced evidence to show the loss, value, &c. of the property insured. Judgment was rendered against the defendants for $2,817.11.

It was argued in this court by Mr. Gillett, for the plaintiff in error, and submitted upon a printed argument by Mr. O. H. Smith, for the defendants.

Pending the argument a copy of a law of Ohio was produced (Ohio General Laws, vol. 45, p. 17) entitled 'An act to authorize suits upon contracts of insurance to be brought in the county in which the contract may be made,' the third section of which provided for the service of process, as in this case.

Mr. Justice CURTIS delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a writ of error to the circuit court of the United States for the district of Indiana, in an action of debt on a judgment recovered in the commercial court of Cincinnati, in the State of Ohio. In the declaration, the plaintiffs are averred to be citizens of Ohio; and they 'complain of the Lafayette Insurance Company, a citizen of the State of Indiana.' This averment is not sufficient to show jurisdiction. It does not appear from it that the Lafayette Insurance Company is a corporation; or, if it be such, by the law of what State it was created. The averment, that the company is a citizen of the State of Indiana, can have no sensible meaning attached to it. This court does not hold, that either a voluntary association of persons, or an association into a body politic, created by law, is a citizen of a State within the meaning of the constitution. And, therefore, if the defective averment in the declaration had not been otherwise supplied, the suit must have been dismissed. But the plaintiff's replication alleges that the defendants are a corporation, created under the laws of the State of Indiana, having its principal place of business in that State. These allegations are confessed by the demurrer; and they bring the case within the decision of this court in Marshall v. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, 16 How. 314, and the previous decisions therein referred to.

Upon the merits, it was objected that the judgment declared on was rendered by the commercial court of Cincinnati, without jurisdiction over the person sued; and the argument was, that as this corporation was created by a law of the State of Indiana, it could have no existence out of that State, and, consequently, could not be sued in Ohio.

The precise facts upon which this objection depends, are that this corporation was created by a law of the State of Indiana, and had its principal office for business within that State. It had also an agent authorized to contract for insurance, who resided in the State of Ohio. The contract on which the judgment in question was recovered was made in Ohio, and was to be there performed; because it was a contract with the citizens of Ohio to insure property within that State. A statute of Ohio makes special provision for suits against foreign corporations, founded on contracts of insurance there made by them with citizens of that State; and one of its provisions is, that service of process on such resident agent of the foreign corporation shall be 'as effectual as though the same were served on the principal.'

The question is, whether a judgment recovered in Ohio against the Indiana corporation, upon a contract made by that corporation in Ohio with citizens of that State to insure property there, after the law above mentioned was enacted—service of process having been made on such resident agent—is a judgment entitled to the same faith and credit in the State of Indiana as in the State of Ohio, under the constitution and laws of the United States.

No question has been made that this judgment would be held binding in the State of Ohio, and would there be satisfied out of any property of the defendants existing in that State.

The act of May 26, 1790, (1 Stats. at Large, 122,) gives to a judgment rendered in any State such faith and credit as it had in the courts of the State where it was recovered. But this provision, though general in its terms, does not extend to judgments rendered against persons not amenable to the jurisdiction rendering the judgments. D'Arcy v. Ketchu...

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