Federal Crop Insurance Corp. v. Merrill

332 U.S. 380 (1947)


D is a wholly Government-owned enterprise, created by the Federal Crop Insurance Act, as an 'agency of and within the Department of Agriculture.' D is empowered 'to insure producers of wheat against loss in yields due to unavoidable causes, including drought. D promulgated its Wheat Crop Insurance Regulations, which were duly published in the Federal Register on February 7, 1945. P applied locally for insurance. They were planting 460 acres of spring wheat and that on 400 of these acres they were reseeding on winter wheat acreage. A local Committee advised Ps that the entire crop was insurable, and recommended to the D's Denver Branch Office acceptance of the application. The formal application itself did not disclose that any part of the insured crop was reseeded. D accepted the application. Most of P's crop was destroyed by drought. D refused to pay the loss when it discovered that most of the crop had been reseeded. P sued D. It was determined at trial that D had no actual knowledge of the Regulations, insofar as they precluded insurance for reseeded wheat, and that they had in fact been misled by D's agent into believing that spring wheat reseeded on winter wheat acreage was insurable by D.  P got the verdict and the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed. The courts held that since the knowledge of the agent of a private insurance company, under the circumstances of this case, would be attributed to, and thereby bind, a private insurance company, the D is equally bound. D appealed.