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AETNA LIFE INS CO v. TREMBLAY , 223 U.S. 185 (1912)

United States Supreme Court


No. 166

Decided: February 19, 1912

Mr. Ralph W. Crockett for plaintiff in error.[ Aetna Life Ins Co v. Tremblay 223 U.S. 185 (1912) ]

[223 U.S. 185, 187]   Messrs. Henry W. Oakes and William Frye White for defendant in error.

[223 U.S. 185, 188]  

Mr. Chief Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

The facts are these: At Quebec, Canada, in 1885, the plaintiff in error issued its policy of insurance for $2,000 upon the life of Jean O. Tremblay, a resident of Canada, his wife being named as the beneficiary. In 1891 Tremblay assigned the policy as collateral security to J. B. Cloutier, of Quebec. Ten years later Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay assigned the policy to their son, Patrick F. Tremblay, subject to the claim of Cloutier. Soon after this last assignment, Jean O. Tremblay died, and both assignees made claim upon the insurance company. The contending claimants not being able to agree as to the amount of the claim of Cloutier, the insurance company, as authorized by the statutes of Canada, paid [223 U.S. 185, 189]   the amount of the policy to the Provincial Treasurer of Quebec. Cloutier then brought suit upon the policy, making the heirs, widow and son of the insured, parties defendant. None of the defendants appeared; judgment by default was entered in favor of Cloutier, and the money was paid over to him by the Provincial Treasurer. During the pendency of Cloutier's suit, however, and before the latter obtained his judgment, Patrick F. Tremblay sued the insurance company in a court of the state of Maine, and recovered judgment for the full amount due upon the policy. 97 Me. 547, 94 Am. St. Rep. 521, 55 Atl. 509. The insurance company then unsuccessfully attempted, by a suit in equity, to stay the collection of the judgment in the action at law. 101 Me. 585, 65 Atl. 22. Presumably in consequence of an intimation of the court when dismissing the equity cause, the insurance company began this proceeding for a review of the action at law, and the same culminated in a judgment in favor of the insurance company against Tremblay for $818.33 and interest, the sum found to be due to Cloutier, as equitable assignee of the policy, for his advances to the original holder of the policy, thereby operating a set-off of the amount against Tremblay's judgment upon the policy. This writ of error was then allowed by the chief justice of the supreme judicial court of Maine.

The assignments of error are three in number, but they merely allege in various forms the commission of error by the state court, sitting as a court of law, in not holding as requested, that the judgment obtained upon the policy by Cloutier, which had been pleaded in bar by the insurance company, was a bar to the action upon the policy brought by Patrick F. Tremblay, thereby denying 'full and proper faith and credit' to the Cloutier judgment.

Plainly the writ of error was improvidently allowed. The authority conferred by Rev. Stat. 709, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 575, to review a final judgment or decree in any suit in the highest court of a state, in which a decision in the suit could be had, [223 U.S. 185, 190]   is limited to cases 'where is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, and the decision is against their validity; or where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of, or an authority exercised under, any state, on the ground of their being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, and the decision is in favor of their validity; or where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is claimed under the Constitution, or any treaty or statute of, or commission held or authority exercised under, the United States, and the decision is against the title, right, privilege, or immunity, specially set up or claimed, by either party, under such Constitution, treaty, statute, commission, or authority.' The 1st section of article 4 of the Constitution confers the right to have full faith and credit 'given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings in every other state.' No such right, privilege, or immunity, however, is conferred by the Constitution or by any statute of the United States in respect to the judgments of foreign states or nations, and we are referred to no treaty relative to such a right.

Neither expressly nor by necessary intendment was there asserted in the state court during the course of the litigation in question any claim on behalf of the insurance company of the possession of a right, etc., protected by the Constitution of the United States. Since, therefore, entirely aside from all question as to the correctness of the judgment below rendered, we are without authority to review the decision made by the state court, it results that the writ of error must be, and it is, dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

Writ of error dismissed.

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AETNA LIFE INS CO v. TREMBLAY , 223 U.S. 185 (1912)

Citation: 223 U.S. 185

Docket No: No. 166

Decided: February 19, 1912

Court: United States Supreme Court

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