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Opinion of the Court.
the expenses incurred for this purpose, it was making a donation in aid of the railroad company in violation of the twentyfifth amendment to the state constitution, and as Wheeler and Howes were property owners and taxpayers of the city, they were incidentally affected by this, and therefore their lands were illegally taken.
2. But assuming that there was color for the motion to dismiss, we are clearly of the opinion that the decree of the Supreme Court of Errors should be affirmed. That court had already decided, not only that the legislature might compel the removal of grade crossings and the payment of the expenses therefor, either by the railroad company or by the city, or by both, Woodruff v. Catlin, 54 Conn. 277, (a case arising under a former act,) and that a statute compelling the removal of grade crossings, as well as imposing upon the railroad the entire expense of the change of grade, was constitutional, N. Y. & N. E. R. R. Co.'s Appeal, 58 Conn. 532; N. Y.& N. E. R. R. v. Bristol, 151 U. S. 556; but the very act in question in this case has also been held to be constitutional. Mooney v. Clark, 69 Conn. 241. That court also held in this case that, whether the land be taken only for the purpose of abolishing grade crossings or to straighten its line and construct additional tracks, the taking is in either case for railroad purposes and for a public use. It also held that the right of the railroad company to condemn defendants' property did not depend upon the validity of any part of the special act of 1895, since by the resolution of the board of directors of the company in July, 1896, and by the approval of the commissioners in June, 1897, both of which alleged in the application, the railroad company was entitled under section 346 of the General Statutes to take the land for the uses named in the resolution.
The plaintiffs in error contended before the Supreme Court of Errors, as they contend here, that the agreement and order made in pursuance thereof, imposing upon the city a proportion of the expense of constructing the two additional elevated tracks, not necessary to the work of eliminating grade crossings, violated the state constitution as well as the Constitution of the United States. “But,” said the court, “if the railroad company
Opinion of the Court.
desires to take this property as one step in carrying out the proposed plan, the defendants cannot prevent it upon the ground that the company may not afterwards be able to obtain reimbursement from the city. The ability of the defendants to obtain payment of their damages does not depend upon the right of the railroad company to collect a part of it from the city. Before taking the land the company must compensate the defendants.” It was further said : That even if the employment of appraisers had established the liability of the city to pay a proportion of the expense of laying the additional tracks, such a defence was not open to the defendants, because they have not alleged that they were taxpayers or had any right or authority to represent the city in such proceedings, or that they will be injured in any respect from the payment by the city of its part of the expense of the work as fixed by the agreement and order. “But," says the court, “ the appointment of appraisers in this proceeding does not affect the question of the liability of the city to pay that part of the expense ordered by the commissioners. The right of the railroad company to have appraisers appointed and to take this property does not depend upon the obligation of the city to pay a one sixth part of the expense of the whole, or of any portion of the work of this undertaking. The two purposes of the act of 1895 were: First, the removal of all existing grade crossings in Bridgeport, and the construction, in the most feasible manner, after considering the interest of the public, the rights, responsibilities and duties of the railroad company, and of the city, and the rights of other parties concerned, of a four-track railroad through the city, in such a way as to avoid crossing any highway at grade; and, second, a just apportionment of the cost among those who ought to bear the expense of performing the work in the manner determined. These two purposes are so far distinct and separable, and are so intended to be by the act, that neither the right of the railroad company to perform the work according to the plans approved by commissioners, nor the power of the cominissioners to compel its performance, depends upon a previous apportionment of the expense between the parties who should bear it. Section 12, as we have already said, provides that if no agreement shall have been made as authorized by section 2,
Opinion of the Court.
the commissioners, after the work shall have been completed, shall apportion the entire expense among the proper parties.”
The court intimated no opinion as to whether the agreement and order fixing the proportionate part of the entire expense to be paid by the city was of doubtful validity. It thought the question was one which could not properly be raised in this proceeding
The court held in substance (1) that the right to have appraisers appointed did not depend upon the obligation of the city to pay a part of the expense, and that defendants could not prevent a condemnation by showing that the company might not afterwards be able to obtain reimbursement from the city; and (2) that the defendants, not alleging that they were taxpayers, or specially interested, were not in a position to question the validity of the proceedings. If this be so, it requires no argument to show that they are not in a position to contend that their property has been taken without due process of law. If the court had gone farther, and held that the taking of defendants' property for the purpose, not only of abolishing grade crossings, but of enabling the railroad company to lay additional tracks, was not a violation of the twenty-fifth amendment to the state constitution, that would have been exclusively a local question, and would bave involved no question of an unlawful taking of defendants' property within the Fourteenth Amendment.
If the fact that the city of Bridgeport contributed to the expense of abolishing grade crossings, and incidentally thereto, to the construction of additional tracks, does no violence to the constitutional provision that no city shall make a donation in aid of a railroad corporation, as held by the Supreme Court of Connecticut, much less does it make a case of taking the property of petitioners, whether as property owners or as taxpayers, without due process of law.
The decree of the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut is, therefore,
MR. JUSTICE GRAY did not sit in this case and took no part in the decision.
MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY v. PHINNEY.
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH
No. 12. Argued January 22, 23, 1900.-Decided May 28, 1900.
Upon the showing made by the Court of Appeals, it is clear that that court
had jurisdiction, and should have proceeded to dispose of this case on its merits, instead of dismissing it for want of jurisdiction. The plaintiff in error is a corporation, organized under the laws of the State
of New York, and doing business as life insurers in the city of New York. It had an agent in the State of Washington, to whom Phinney, a resident in that State applied for a policy on his life. The application stated that it was made subject to the charter of the company and the laws of New York. A policy was issued which provided that on its maturing payment was to be made at the home office of the company in New York, and on its receipt Phinney paid the first premium. The policy provided that he should pay a like premium for twenty years, if he should live so long, and that the policy should become void by non-payment of the premium, with a forfeiture of previous payments. Phinney failed to make the next annual payment. Then he surrendered the policy to the local agent. He died without having made that payment, or the next one which matured before his death. His widow was appointed his executrix. She presented to the company a claim for the amount of the insurance under the policy. It was rejected. This suit was thereupon brought. In its answer the company set up that the contract was not to be taken as a contract under the laws of the State of New York, but under the laws of the State of Washington, and the company asked this instruction, which the court declined to give. “If you find from the evidence in this case that the said Guy C. Phindey stated to the representative of the defendant in the State of Washington that he could not pay the premium falling due September 24, 1891, and that he did not pay nor tender the same, and that he thereafter surrendered said policy to the defendant's representative, they mutually believing and understanding that the same was of no force or validity then or thereafter, by reason of the nonpayment of the said premium, this would constitute an abandonment and rescission of this contract by both parties thereto, and would put an end to the same; and if you find the facts so to be, you must find a verdict for the defendant." The jury trial resulted in a verdict and judgment for the plaintiff. This was taken in error to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which dismissed the writ of error on the ground that it had no jurisdiction by reason of a failure on the part of the plaintiff in error to file the writ in the office of the trial court. Held:
Statement of the Case.
(1) That the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction; (2) That, without deciding it, the court would hold for the purposes of
this case that the contract was made under the laws of the State
of New York, and was governed by the laws of that State; (3) That it is to be presumed that each party knew what the laws of New
York were, and neither could be misled by any statement in respect
thereto on the part of the other; (4) That there is nothing in the New York statute (if controlling at all)
to prevent the parties from dealing with that as with any other
contract, and if they chose to abandon it their action is conclusive. After the company had once excepted to the refusal of an instruction which
it had asked, and excepted to those which were given, it did not lose the benefit of such exceptions by a request that the court repeat the instructions excepted to, in connection with certain answers made to questions propounded by the jury.
On September 22, 1890, Guy C. Phinney, a resident of the State of Washington, applied to the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York for a policy of insurance on his life for the sum of $100,000, payable to his executors, administrators or assigns. This application was forwarded by the local agent at Seattle to the general agent of the company at San Francisco, and by him to the home office of the company in New York city. By reason of such application a policy was issued to Phinney, bearing date September 24, 1890, forwarded to the general agent at San Francisco, by him to the local agent at Seattle, and by the latter delivered to Phinney, who received it, and at the same time paid the first year's premium, amounting to $3770. The policy provided that Phinney should pay the annual premium of $3770 on September 24 of each year thereafter for twenty full years, provided he should live so long, and also “this policy shall become void by non-payment of the premium; all payments previously made shall be forfeited to the company, except as hereinafter provided.” This last exception referred to certain provisions as to surrender value and readjustment of the amount of insurance on the payment of a certain number of payments, none of which are material to the question at issue in this case. Prior to September 24, 1891, notices were sent by both the general agent at San Francisco and the local agent at Seattle to Phinney that his premium would be due on September 24, 1891. Twice between the time