Will v. Calvert Fire Insurance Company

RESPONDENT:Calvert Fire Insurance Company
LOCATION:Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

DOCKET NO.: 77-693
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 437 US 655 (1978)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1978

Louis Loss – for respondents
Milton V. Freeman – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Will v. Calvert Fire Insurance Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 19, 1978 in Will v. Calvert Fire Insurance Company

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 23, 1978 in Will v. Calvert Fire Insurance Company

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in — judgment of the Court in Will against Calvert Fire Insurance Company will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

This case comes to us from Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit which is Mr. Justice Stevens’ old court and it involves litigation amongst insurance companies.

Respondent who is Calvert Fire Insurance Company had been sued in the State Court by American Mutual Reinsurance Company, which sought a declaration that it’s reinsurance agreement with respondent remained in the effect.

Six months later, the respondent filed an answer in counterclaim in the State Court in Chicago, based on several state statutes, common law of fraud and federal securities act.

Then on the same day it filed a complaint in the federal district court in Chicago, seeking damages and injunctive relief on the same theories.

Hubert Will who is the judge of the District Court in Chicago and is a petitioner in this case, granted a motion to defer consideration of most of respondent’s claims until the completion of the concurrent litigation in the state court.

Although judge Will ruled that respondent’s claim for damages under the federal act of 1934 over which the federal district courts have exclusive jurisdiction remained viable, he made no ruling on the merits of that claim before the filing of this mandamus action in the Court of Appeals to compel them to make a ruling.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit did issue a writ of mandamus, relying upon this Court’s decision in Colorado River Conservation District versus United States which was handed down after judge Will had entered his order deferring the state proceedings.

We now reverse the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In a plurality opinion which I have authored and which is joined by Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice White and Mr. Justice Stevens, we conclude that even if the district court’s action was wrong under our Colorado River decision, that error has to be corrected on appeal and was not subject to review by mandamus.

Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment of reversal.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion which the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Marshal and Mr. Justice Powell joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Rehnquist.