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BALTIMORE & O.R. CO. v. REAUX

March 22, 1945

BALTIMORE & O.R. CO.
v.
REAUX et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KLOEB

This is an action of interpleader brought by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company under the provisions of U.S.C.A. Title 28, Section 41, Subdivision 26.

The facts of the controversy, as alleged in the bill, are here set out in summary. The company is a citizen and resident of the State of Maryland and has its principal place of business at Baltimore, Maryland. It is a railroad corporation, but is authorized by the State of Maryland to issue insurance on the lives of its employees upon a mutual or assessment plan; and did issue a policy or certificate of insurance through its relief department to an employee, named David R. Reed, in the amount of $ 1,000, on the 27th day of January, 1938. The policy named the claimant, Bertha R. Reaux, one of Mr. Reed's daughters, as beneficiary. On or about September 19, 1943, the company's relief department received a letter from Mr. Reed, dated September 17, 1943, and addressed to the Superintendent of the relief department, making the request that ' * * * you change my insurance to read Mrs. Bessie R. Welshhans, instead of Mrs. Bertha Reaux * * * '. Mrs. Welshhans is Mr. Reed's oldest daughter and the other claimant herein. A form for the purpose of changing a beneficiary was mailed to Mr. Reed, but, instead of being sent to an address given in the letter mentioned, was sent to 222 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland. Thereafter nothing further was heard from Mr. Reed, who died on October 22, 1943. The policy provided that 'No change of beneficiary will be permitted without the written consent of the Superintendent of the Relief Department', and no change was ever made on the records of the company. Both daughters claim the proceeds of the policy and one, Mrs. Bertha R. Reaux, filed suit in the State Court, whereupon the company filed its bill of interpleader.

 Both claimants were enjoined from prosecuting suit and were required to answer in this suit, so that their respective rights to the proceeds could be determined. Both have filed their answers.

 The case was tried upon the pleadings and stipulations of the claimants. It was stipulated that Exhibits A, B and C should be received in evidence, that the allegations of fact in the bill of interpleader be accepted as true, and that David R. Reed lived at 222 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland, until 1935, at which time he moved to the home of Mrs. Reaux in Toledo, where he remained until 1938, then going to the home of his niece in Cumberland, Maryland.

 Exhibit A is the original 'Certificate of Membership in the Relief Feature, Relief Department of The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company'. Exhibit B is a copy of the 'Regulations Governing the Relief Department of The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company'. Exhibit C is a copy of the 'Application to Retain Membership for Natural Death Benefit upon Expiration of Furlough or Leave of Absence, and after leaving service'.

 The parts of these exhibits important to a determination of the controversy are quoted in whole or in part as indicated.

 Paragraph one of the Application provides, in part, as follows: 'I, David R. Reed, of Pittsburgh, in the County of Allegheny, and State of Pennsylvania, * * * do hereby apply to continue my membership in the Relief Feature of the Relief Department, for the Natural Death Benefit only, and consent and agree to be bound by all the Regulations of the Relief Department now in force, and by any other Regulations of said Department hereafter adopted, applicable to the Relief Feature;'

 Paragraph two of the Application provides, in part, that: 'I Also Agree to pay in advance, * * * the sum of $ 1.40, as a contribution to the Relief Feature of said Department, as a condition precedent to securing Four times the Natural Death Benefit * * * provided by said Regulations, * * * paid out of the fund therein provided for, in the event of my death, to My daughter -- Mrs. Bertha R. Reaux -- or to whomever I may hereafter from time to time designate in writing, by way of substitution without the consent of the person or persons previously designated, but with the written consent of the Superintendent; * * * '.

 Paragraph five of the Application provides that: 'I Understand And Agree that this application, when accepted by the Superintendent, shall constitute a contract between me and the said Company, governed in its construction and effect by the laws of the State of Maryland, by which my rights as a member of said Relief Feature shall be determined as to all matters within its scope; that each of the statements herein contained shall constitute a warranty by me, the truth whereof shall be a condition of payment of the benefits aforesaid.'

 Paragraph seven of the Application states that: 'In Witness Whereof, I have signed these presents at Frederick, in the State of Maryland, this 11 day of January, 1938. Effective from and after June 24, 1937, date granted an annuity by the Railroad Retirement Board'.

 Paragraph nine of the Application states that: 'The foregoing application is accepted at the Office of the Superintendent of the Relief Department, Baltimore, Maryland, this . . . day of Jan. 14, 1938.'

 Paragraph one of the Certificate of Membership provides, in part: 'In Consideration of the representations, statements and agreements made in an application for membership, dated January 11, 1938, effective from and after 6/24/37, which are hereby referred to, and as warranties made a part hereof, * * * '.

 Paragraph five of the Certificate of Membership provides that: 'No change of beneficiary will be permitted without the written consent of the Superintendent of the Relief Department'.

 The last paragraph of the Certificate of Membership states: 'In Witness Whereof, The Relief Feature of the Relief Department of The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company has, by its Superintendent, executed and delivered this Certificate, and has caused the same to be duly ...


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