Clay v. Sun Ins. Office, Ltd.

RESPONDENT: Sun Ins. Office, Ltd.
LOCATION: New York Times Office

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 377 US 179 (1964)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1964
DECIDED: May 18, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Clay v. Sun Ins. Office, Ltd.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1964 in Clay v. Sun Ins. Office, Ltd.

Earl Warren:

Number 470, John Clay, Petitioner versus Sun Insurance Company.

Mr. Reese.

Paschal C. Reese:

May it please the Court.

This time I would like to request that Mr. James T. Carlisle, Assistant Attorney General, State of Florida and the Member of the Florida Court, but not a member of this Court be allowed to represent the honorable James W. Kynes, the Attorney General of the State of Florida as amicus curiae and that he be allowed 10 minutes of my time.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Carlisle might be admitted for that purpose.

Paschal C. Reese:

May it please the Court, this is the second time that this case has been before this honorable body on petition for certiorari from the Fifth Circuit.

On the first occasion, the case was remanded back to the Court of Appeals because the questions involved had not been answered by the Supreme Court, by -- and state in the State of Florida -- any court in the State of Florida.

The question that was outlined by this Court were propounded to the state -- Supreme Court of the State of Florida and after quite an argument with the Court as to whether or not under Section 25.013 of the Florida Statutes 19 and at that time it was 57 of Florida statutes whether or not the Court had constitutional authority to answer questions propounded by federal Courts.

The Court finally held that it did have such constitutional authority and thereafter changed the rules of the Supreme Court rules, the appellate Courts of Florida rather, so that it could accept questions propounded by federal Courts.

The Supreme Court of Florida then answered both questions propounded to it in the affirmative.

It said in effect that under Section 95.03 of the Florida statutes now 19.63 that State of Florida had sufficient interest in the subject matter of the suit since Mr. Clay was a resident of the State of Florida and all of his property was located in the State of Florida, and had been so located since about one month after this contract had been entered to in Illinois and that further more the loss took place in State of Florida, investigation of the loss was made by the insurance company within the State of Florida and the insurance company was authorized to transact business in State of Florida.

At this Personal Property Floater Policy was a policy that guaranteed against loss in any part of the world, it was termed the world wide policy, and that therefore the paramount interests of any state in this matter was with the State of Florida.

The matter was then referred of course back to Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals then again basing its opinion upon Home Insurance Company versus Dick, Hartford and Delta Pine Land Company reiterated the opinion that it had previously handed down whereas in the first opinion the Court of Appeals said that it believed that the Supreme Court of the State of Florida would take such and such position.

When the State of Florida, the Supreme Court of the State of Florida did not take such a position, then the Court of Appeals took the position that since the Supreme Court of Florida under the (Inaudible) arrangement that we have of Court of Appeals had the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in State of Florida did not call questions of this sort.

In other words, it should have been according to the as I read the opinion the question should have been propounded to one or the other of the District Courts of Appeal.

Now it so happens that soon after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, the same question came before the second, the District Court of Appeals to the second district, and following the mandate of the Supreme Court of Florida they affirmed that decision.

I cannot -- in every case, even in the Dick case and in Delta and Pine Land Case and most particularly in the Watson case, which is the latest on the subject dealing with the laws of one state being applicable in another state, conflict of laws, this Court has repeatedly held that where the interest of the state was paramount then the laws of the state would control.

We have repeated many times and sometimes it seemed rather few were repeated again, but the only connection (Inaudible) the State of Illinois had with this contract was the fact that John Clay, then a resident of Illinois took out a three-year insurance policy and paid the premium in cash in the state of Illinois, the contract of course was handed to him in the state of Illinois.

Less than two months thereafter according to the records, the transcript of record, Clay his wife, and any connections that he had in Chicago who depended upon him moved to State of Florida and became permanent residents.

They first took up residence in Palm Beach, then in Miami and finally when this loss occurred they were occupying a ranch near Clewiston ward where they had made according to evidence, had made tremendous investments.

They had no intentions of ever returning to the State of Illinois.

All of the damage was done to the property was done in Florida.

According to the laws of State of Florida, a man can steal from his wife and the wife can steal from the husband.

Consequently the acts by which these damages were claimed -- constituted a breech of the criminal law of the State of Florida.

Therefore, they could not have been justified in the State of Illinois.

Now the fact that no criminal action took place -- nevertheless the second question which is not a constitutional question and therefore it is not answered in the Court of Appeals' opinion was a criminal act and the state of Florida had the interest of that criminal act as part of its public policy.

Now the appellee claims (Inaudible) on the insurance statute State of Florida showing that in certain instances the insurance commission as constituted by the statutes of state of Florida, by the legislature that they have changed the policy of the state in reference to numerous insurance policies.

However, nowhere in this laws of State of Florida and the Supreme Court of state of Florida answered that because the insurance code existed and the same argument was made before the Supreme Court of Florida, and the Supreme Court of Florida realized that the legislature cannot delegate to a board in Florida the right to legislate and in no instance have they done it.

They have set up a code.

They have by a statutory act allowed this Court to handle certain types of policies, but it so happened that this Personal Property Floater Policy is nowhere mentioned in the insurance code.