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U.S. Supreme Court

Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, 340 U.S. 54 (1950)

Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States

Nos. 27 and 28

Argued October 13, 1950

Decided November 27, 1950

340 U.S. 54


1. A government war risk insurance policy insuring a ship against "all consequences of hostilities or warlike operations" does not, as a matter of law, cover a loss resulting from a collision occurring during wartime between the insured vessel and a Navy minesweeper engaged in minesweeping operations, where both vessels were at fault. Pp. 340 U. S. 55-61.

(a) To take a loss resulting from a collision out of the category covered by standard marine risk policies and bring it within the coverage of a war risk policy insuring against "all consequences of" warlike operations, the "warlike operation" must be the proximate cause of the collision. Pp. 340 U. S. 57-58.

(b) The courts below did not err in failing to hold as a matter of law that the "warlike operation" of minesweeping was the proximate cause of the collision, and they properly considered the case as depending on the resolution of factual questions. Pp. 340 U. S. 58-59.

(c) While uniformity of decisions here and in England in the interpretation and enforcement of marine insurance contracts is desirable, American courts are not bound to follow House of Lords' decisions automatically. The practice is no more than to accord respect to established doctrines of English maritime law. P. 340 U. S. 59.

(d) This Court cannot be sure what conclusion the House of Lords would reach were this case presented to it. Pp. 340 U. S. 59-60.

2. Since this Court was asked only to determine whether, as a matter of law, the provision insuring against "all consequences of . . . warlike operations" covered the loss resulting from the collision here involved, and certiorari was not granted to consider the divergence between the two courts below in their findings of fact, this Court does not review their findings of fact. Pp. 340 U. S. 57, 340 U. S. 59.

178 F.2d 488, affirmed.

In an admiralty proceeding arising out of a collision between petitioner's ship and a Navy minesweeper, the District Court found that the loss was covered by a government policy of war risk insurance. 81 F.Supp. 183. The chanrobles.com-red

Page 340 U. S. 55

Court of Appeals reversed. 178 F.2d 488. This Court granted certiorari. 339 U.S. 977. Affirmed, p. 340 U. S. 61.