Zeig v. Massachusetts Bonding & Ins. Co., 23 F.2d 665 (2d Cir. 1928)

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US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit - 23 F.2d 665 (2d Cir. 1928)
January 9, 1928

23 F.2d 665 (1928)


No. 101.

Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

January 9, 1928.

*666 Kopp, Markewich & Null, of New York City (Samuel Null, of New York City, of counsel), for plaintiff in error.

Joseph L. Prager, of New York City (Fred Boehm, of New York City, of counsel), for defendant in error.

Before MANTON, SWAN, and AUGUSTUS N. HAND, Circuit Judges.

AUGUSTUS N. HAND, Circuit Judge (after stating the facts as above).

The defendant argues that it was necessary for the plaintiff actually to collect the full amount of the policies for $15,000, in order to "exhaust" that insurance. Such a construction of the policy sued on seems unnecessarily stringent. It is doubtless true that the parties could impose such a condition precedent to liability upon the policy, if they chose to do so. But the defendant had no rational interest in whether the insured collected the full amount of the primary policies, so long as it was only called upon to pay such portion of the loss as was in excess of the limits of those policies. To require an absolute collection of the primary insurance to its full limit would in many, if not most, cases involve delay, promote litigation, and prevent an adjustment of disputes which is both convenient and commendable. A result harmful to the insured, and of no rational advantage to the insurer, ought only to be reached when the terms of the contract demand it.

We can see no reason for a construction so burdensome to the insured. Nothing is said about the "collection" of the full amount of the primary insurance. The clause provides only that it be "exhausted in the payment of claims to the full amount of the expressed limits." The claims are paid to the full amount of the policies, if they are settled and discharged, and the primary insurance is thereby exhausted. There is no need of interpreting the word "payment" as only relating to payment in cash. It often is used as meaning the satisfaction of a claim by compromise, or in other ways. To render the policy in suit applicable, claims had to be and were satisfied and paid to the full limit of the primary policies. Only such portion of the loss as exceeded, not the cash settlement, but the limits of these policies, is covered by the excess policy.

We are aware of the fact that there are decisions holding that the words "exhausted in the payment of claims" require collection of the primary policies as a condition precedent to the right to recover excess insurance. We can see nothing in the clause before us to require a construction so burdensome to the insured, and must accordingly reject such an interpretation.

The plaintiff should have been allowed to prove the amount of his loss, and, if that loss was greater than the amount of the expressed limits of the primary insurance, he was entitled to recover the excess to the extent of the policy in suit.

The judgment is reversed.

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