ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.
The plaintiff here, plaintiff below, is the receiver of the American National Life and Trust Company of New Haven. This action, originally commenced in the Supreme Court of the city and county of New York, and thence removed to the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, is one to recover damages resulting from certain alleged fraudulent acts by the defendant Post, who alone answered, in conjunction with other parties, by which a large quantity of valuable assets were abstracted from the possession of the American National Life and Trust Company and wholly lost to it.
The company was an insurance company, organized under
the laws of the State of Connecticut. Proceedings were duly instituted for winding up its affairs and annulling its charter, and under these proceedings the plaintiff was appointed receiver and authorized to maintain this action. This appointment was made on November 8, 1878. Some time before his appointment a large bulk of the assets of the corporation were transferred to the National Capital Insurance Company of Washington, D.C., and wholly lost to the Connecticut corporation, as well as to the parties having policies in such company.
The contention of plaintiff is, that this transfer and loss of assets of the Connecticut corporation was brought about by a conspiracy, and through the fraudulent acts of defendant Post, with others. The case was tried before a jury; and at the close of the testimony the judge, ruling that the plaintiff had made out no case, and proved nothing which justified any submission of matters of fact to the jury, directed a verdict for the defendant. The record, therefore, transmitted here by proper proceedings in error, presents the question, not whether the plaintiff was entitled to recover all the damages he claimed, not what was the measure of damages, if he was entitled to recover, not even whether upon the facts the jury was bound to return a verdict in his favor, but whether there was sufficient testimony to require a submission of the questions to the determination of a jury. We are of the opinion that there was such sufficient evidence, and that, therefore, the judgment must be reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial.
We premise what we have to say with the remark that we express no opinion as to the extent of the recovery which should be had, if any, or the measure of damages, nor do we wish to be understood as asserting that the verdict ought to have been in favor of the plaintiff. We simply hold, for reasons hereafter stated, that there was presented by the testimony matters of fact vital to the controversy, upon which the plaintiff had a right to the opinion of the jury, and which it was error for the court to withdraw from its judgment. It is necessary for the just disposition of this case that a fuller statement of the disputed and undisputed facts should be made.
In the fall of 1875, Benjamin Noyes, of New Haven, and Henry D. Walker, of Boston, were officers of the Connecticut company, which was then in failing circumstances, though possessed of assets amounting to several hundred thousand dollars. Personal liability was supposed to attach to these gentlemen, but whether this was so or not in fact, is immaterial. The condition of the company was known to defendant Post; at least, he was fully advised of suspicion and charges, because, on an inquiry instituted by the insurance commissioner of the State of Connecticut, he had been called as a witness as to the value of certain securities held by it. On or about December 5, 1875, Noyes and Walker, with others, bought the franchises of the National Capital Insurance Company of Washington, D.C., a company without property or business, and paid four thousand dollars for the purchase. Conspiring to secure themselves from liability, and to wreck for their own benefit the Connecticut company, a scheme was devised for the reinsurance of the risks of the Connecticut company with the National Insurance Company. A reinsurance was possible only on satisfactory representations to the Connecticut company of the possession by the Washington company of abundant assets. Such satisfactory evidence was furnished to the directors of the Connecticut company, the reinsurance was accomplished, and a large amount of the assets of the Connecticut company was transferred to the Washington company. The outcome of this was that the Connecticut company lost its assets, and, somehow or other, the same assets transferred to the Washington company disappeared. At least, for the purposes of this case, these facts must be considered as proved, in view of the allegations in the complaint, and the time at which the court interposed in the trial and directed a verdict for defendant. The contention of plaintiff is, that such transfer of assets was brought about by fraudulent representations made to the Connecticut company by the Washington company, and that the representations were accomplished through the agency of the defendant Post, and under such circumstances that knowledge of a fraudulent intention is imputed to him. Walker and Noyes were officers of the
Connecticut company; Walker became treasurer of the Washington company. It was necessary to satisfy the Connecticut company that the Washington company should be possessed of large properties. It in fact had nothing. The possession of properties by the Washington company must, therefore, be evidenced to the Connecticut company, before reinsurance was possible. With other transactions having the same objects in view, Walker arranged with defendant Post that he should put fifty thousand dollars in bonds into his, Walker's, possession as treasurer of the new company. Thereupon, fifty thousand four hundred dollars of negotiable securities were placed in the Continental National Bank by Post, and a receipt given to Walker, by the assistant cashier of that bank, in these words: "Received of Henry D. Walker, the following securities as special deposit, without risk in case of robbery." Following these words was a list of the securities, and the receipt was signed "W. J. Harris, Ass't Cashier." When this and other like deposits had been accomplished, the Connecticut company was advised that the Washington company was possessed of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of property, and sought a reinsurance of the risks of the Connecticut company. One of the directors of the Connecticut company, Joseph A. Smith, was appointed a committee to ascertain the character and value of the assets of the Washington company. In obedience to that duty, he went to New York and was shown by Walker, the treasurer of the Washington company, the securities thus deposited in his name in the Continental Bank, as well as others similarly deposited, and reported to the Connecticut company that the treasurer of the Washington company had in his possession, as assets of the latter company, more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of municipal and other securities. Thereupon, the reinsurance was effected, and the assets of the Connecticut company, in the main, were transferred to the Washington company.
It is undisputed that the Washington company had no assets, and that this show of assets was made by reason of the transfer of apparent title by the defendant Post and others to Walker, ...