U.S. Supreme Court Ripley v. Insurance Company, 83 U.S. 16 Wall. 336 336 (1872)
Ripley v. Insurance Company
83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 336
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR
THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
One took out an accident policy of insurance on his life while "traveling by public or private conveyance." Having performed a part of his journey by steamer, which brought him to a certain village, he walked thence home about eight miles. Held that while thus walking, he was not traveling by either public or private conveyance.
On the 8th of May, 1869, one Ripley took out an accident policy of insurance on his life, "good for one day," for $5,000. It stipulated for the payment of that sum to the legal representatives of the assured in the event of his death from injuries effected through violent and accidental means, provided that the death was caused by an accident while the assured was "traveling by public or private conveyance. "
After purchasing the ticket, the insured proceeded by steamboat to a village about eight miles from his residence, and from that village he walked home. While on his way, he received injuries by violence, from the effects of which he died soon afterwards and within the time limited by the policy.
The question was whether, when he received the injuries, he was "traveling by public or private conveyance. " The court below held that he was not, and this holding was the error complained of.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court.
That the deceased was traveling is clear enough, but was traveling on foot traveling by public or private conveyance?
The contract must receive the construction which the language used fairly warrants. What was the understanding of the parties, or rather what understanding must naturally have been derived from the language used? It seems to us that walking would not naturally be presented to the mind as a means of public or private conveyance. Public conveyance naturally suggests a vessel or vehicle employed in the general conveyance of passengers. Private conveyance suggests a vehicle belonging to a private individual.
If this was the sense in which the language was understood by the parties, the deceased was not, when injured, traveling within the terms of the policy. There is nothing to show that it was not.