Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New York v. Hillmon case brief

Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New York v. Hillmon case brief summary
145 U.S. 285 (1892)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendants appealed both the exclusion of the alleged deceased's letters as evidence to prove his intentions and the consolidation of their cases at trial under Rev. Stat. § 921, in plaintiff's action seeking to recover the proceeds of a life insurance policy in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kansas.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff sought recovery from three separate defendant insurance companies who issued life insurance policies on her husband. Plaintiff claimed that her husband was killed in an accidental shooting and his body was buried following an inquest. Defendants claimed that the body was that of the deceased's travelling companion and not the deceased himself.

DISCUSSION

  • The United States Supreme Court found that exclusion of defendants' introduction of the travelling companion's letters to his fiance for the purpose of establishing his intent to accompany the insured was error. 
  • The Court indicated the expressed intentions were verbal acts reliable for proving a then existing state of mind from which a jury could decide reliability. 
  • The Court found that the lower court's allocation of only three peremptory challenges among defendants was error because defendants each had the right to three challenges and consolidation for purposes of judicial economy did not divest them of their individual rights.

CONCLUSION
The Court reversed the judgment against defendants because it was error to exclude letters as evidence of a then existing state of mind and error to allocate three peremptory challenges in a consolidated action when each defendant, individually, had the right to three challenges.

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