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Petrullo v. Standard Fire Insurance Co.

Decided: April 30, 1937.

FANNIE PETRULLO, RESPONDENT,
v.
STANDARD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT, APPELLANT



On appeal from the Supreme Court.

For the appellant, Williams & Leonard.

For the respondent, Joseph H. Gaudielle.

Lloyd

The opinion of the court was delivered by

LLOYD, J. Plaintiff below recovered a judgment for a fire loss and the defendant appeals. The grounds urged for reversal are that the trial judge erroneously admitted in evidence a decree in Chancery establishing the title of the plaintiff (insured by the defendant), to the property in which the fire

occurred, and gave to such decree binding effect on the defendant.

The policy of insurance provided that it should be void "if the interest of the insured be other than unconditional and sole ownership; or if the subject of insurance be a building on ground not owned by the insured in fee-simple." The defense was that the plaintiff did not have such "unconditional and sole ownership" of the insured property.

At the time the insurance was effected and at the time of the loss the legal paper title to the property stood in the name of Joseph Petrullo, husband of the plaintiff. Thereupon the plaintiff filed a bill in the Court of Chancery to have the deed to her husband, dated January 11th, 1929, and recorded April 10th, 1930, reformed by striking out the name of Joseph Petrullo as grantee and inserting therein in its place the name of the plaintiff, Fannie Petrullo, the insured. This proceeding resulted in a decree in conformity with the prayer of the bill.

At the trial in the present case the deed to Joseph, together with the reforming decree, were offered in evidence. To the decree the defendant entered objection on the ground that the defendant was not bound thereby; that it was an attempt to vary the terms of the insurance contract, and finally that it attempted to fix liability on the defendant by changing the ownership of the title after the contract was made.

It is now contended that not only was the deed inadmissible but that the trial judge was wrong in submitting to the jury the question of damages only, and in effect ruling that the decree was conclusive on the question of title as of the time the insurance was effected.

Assuming that the latter question is sufficiently raised, (which is doubtful, inasmuch as no exception was taken to the charge of the trial judge, nor is any such error alleged in the grounds of appeal) we think the court was right with respect to both questions.

While it is true the defendant was not bound by the decree, the decree was nevertheless a muniment of title and as such was just as admissible as the deed which it purported to reform. ...


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