Hinkle v. New England Mut. Ins. Co. of Boston

RESPONDENT: New England Mut. Ins. Co. of Boston
LOCATION: Fargo, North Dakota

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 358 US 65 (1958)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1958
DECIDED: Nov 10, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Hinkle v. New England Mut. Ins. Co. of Boston

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1958 in Hinkle v. New England Mut. Ins. Co. of Boston

Earl Warren:

Number 28, Maxine K. Hinkle, Administratrix of the Estate of W. Max Hinkle, deceased, petitioner versus New England Mutual Life Insurance Company of Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr. Forrest --

Leland S. Forrest:

Mr. Chief Justice –

Earl Warren:

-- you may proceed.

Leland S. Forrest:

-- may it please the Court.

This was an action of law commenced in an Iowa state court upon what is commonly denominated an interim contract of interim insurance.

It appears at page 17 of the record, that is a photostatic copy of what was delivered by the defendant insurance company to Max W. Hinkle.

The unfortunate thing happened that he took out this insurance and paid the first premium on a Friday morning, the 25th February and the next day he was killed by the crashing of his airplane.

Our contention is that this was a binding contract of insurance.

That all the conditions occurred, that the matter of doing business here by this matter, they induced him or led him to believe that he was insured when he paid this premium and that under the decisions of the Supreme Court of Iowa, it is against the public policy of Iowa or any court, either the Iowa courts or any other court to assist an insurance company from evading that liability when they -- Iowa has said that by the -- the fact that they are charging him a premium over that interm, that if they don't have to pay it is unpaid.

Now our chief complaint against the Court of Appeals is that they decided this case by numerous decisions other than from Iowa.

They did mention and cite the Reynolds case that we cite in our brief and I have cited it to that.

They stated what the court said in that case, then they took a large number of cases, mostly cases from states where the fact I'm going to call your attention to, the most essential fact did not exist and then said by interpreting this Iowa case, in the light of this -- these other cases that there should have been a verdict directed for the insurance company.

So the real question in the case, it's not a case of who should recover and who shouldn't, it's a case of whether or not the court should have directed a verdict for the insurance company.

The trial court overruled the motion of the defendants for directed verdict, submitted to the jury and under his instructions the jury found for the plaintiffs.

Now it's immaterial, nobody took any exceptions to these instructions, I didn't and they didn't.

Charles E. Whittaker:

(Inaudible) lawyer and the Court of Appeals who wrote this opinion was an Iowa lawyer, is that right?

Leland S. Forrest:

That is where I made my mistake in the oral argument and of course that did create I think considerable prejudice in the part of the Iowa judge against the man from the Missouri and I think that is one of the reasons I claim it wasn't due process of law, because then when you emphasis the fact where the judge came from, then you haven't got due process of law, but (Inaudible) prejudice.

And I might say however that the gentlemen, if you gentlemen set up there from Kansas City, you probably know him better than I do, was one of the most brilliant men and you didn't have to hit him over the head with the case to get him to see it, he was usually two jumps ahead of you.

And my contention is that don't make any difference where the judge came from, there isn't any judge in Iowa that would have sustained the motion for a directed verdict in this case.

Now if you look at that, in the first place they have written in there the word immediate coverage in ink in addition to what they printed, and here is what they printed, the insurance applied for shall be in full force and effect from this date, provided the proposed insured is now in good health, notwithstanding any change of the proposed insured's health or condition due to disease hereafter acquired or to any subsequent causality.

Now by the time the average man and I'm going to refer to the Judge Hand's opinion in the Second Circuit obviously, by the time the average man reads through the sentence the rest of it is he is confused.

It took the court -- Judge (Inaudible), it took him 20 some pages with briefs and weighted authority to convince himself that this meant what he said would be.

Now if you refer to Judge Hand's opinion, he says in the Second Circuit, that these things are to be interpreted not like an insurance adjuster, an insurance underwriter would interpret it, that it be interpreted the way the average man would interpret.

Felix Frankfurter:

Would you think that Judge Hand was an average man?

Leland S. Forrest:

No, but he didn't do this which the Court of Appeals did.

He doesn't write his knowledge of insurance business into the opinions and make an expert witness out of himself subconsciously.

Now that's what he was saying I think, that no judge, no matter how much he knows about insurance, should not write his knowledge of the insurance business into a contract and thereby read his knowledge in there as if he were an expert witness, and that's what I claim, the Court of Appeal's statement.

They took review of that -- they took their knowledge of a -- of the insurance underwriter and they said this conclusively shows that he wasn't insurable, but the only way they could do it under not here, but they didn't say it was insurable, but not insurable under the underwriting rules and practices of the company.

Now they did put in evidence some of their underwriting rules and practices, now that was over by objection.