234 U.S. 412 (1914), 604, Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company v. Harris

Docket Nº:No. 604
Citation:234 U.S. 412, 34 S.Ct. 790, 58 L.Ed. 1377
Party Name:Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company v. Harris
Case Date:June 08, 1914
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 412

234 U.S. 412 (1914)

34 S.Ct. 790, 58 L.Ed. 1377

Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company

v.

Harris

No. 604

United States Supreme Court

June 8, 1914

Submitted February 24, 1914

ERROR TO THE JUSTICE COURT, PRECINCT NO. 6,

HOPKINS COUNTY, TEXAS

Syllabus

Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. v. Cade, 233 U.S. 642, followed to effect that the Texas Statute of 1909 allowing an attorney fee in certain cases for claims of less than a specified amount is not unconstitutional under the due process or equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

A state police regulation designed to promote the payment of small but well founded claims and to discourage litigation in respect thereto, and which only incidentally includes claims arising out of interstate commerce, does not constitute a direct burden on interstate commerce, and is not, in the absence of legislation by Congress on the subject, repugnant to the commerce clause or otherwise in conflict with federal authority. Atlantic Coast Line v. Mazursky, 216 U.S. 122.

When Congress has exerted its paramount legislative authority over a particular subject of interstate commerce, state laws upon the same subject are superseded.

The mere creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the grant to it of a measure of control over interstate commerce, does not, in the absence of specific action by Congress or the Commission, interfere with the police power of the states as to matters otherwise within their respective jurisdictions and not directly burdening interstate commerce, even though such commerce may be incidentally affected. Southern Ry. Co. v. Reid, 22 U.S. 424.

While the Carmack Amendment supersedes state legislation on the subject of the carrier's liability for loss of interstate shipments, it does not interfere with a state statute incidentally affecting the remedy for enforcing that liability, such as a moderate attorney fee in case of recoverable contested claims for damages. Atlantic Coast Line v. Riverside Mills, 219 U.S. 186, distinguished.

The Texas Statute of 1909 allowing a reasonable attorney's fee as a

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part of the costs in suit on contested but proper claims of less than $200 is not unconstitutional a applied to claim for loss on interstate shipments, nor is it inconsistent with any of the provisions of the Act to Regulate Commerce.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of a statute of the State of Texas allowing an attorney's fee in certain actions based on claims for small amounts against railway companies, are stated in the opinion.

Page 415

PITNEY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, the plaintiff below (now defendant in error) recovered a judgment for $3.50 damages for loss of certain freight that was shipped from St. Louis, Missouri, consigned to plaintiff at Como, Texas, and delivered by the initial carrier to defendant for transportation to destination, the loss having occurred on defendant's line in Texas. The judgment includes an attorney's fee of $10, allowed by virtue of the local statute approved March 19, 1909, Laws, p. 93, Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat. 1911, Arts. 2178 and 2179, which was under consideration in Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. v. Cade, 233 U.S. 642, and is set forth verbatim in a marginal note to the opinion in that case. The controversy turns upon the allowance of the attorney's fee, the same federal questions having been raised in the state court and in this Court that were raised in the Cade case. So far as the Fourteenth Amendment is concerned, our opinion in that case renders further discussion unnecessary. But since the claim of the present plaintiff was based upon freight lost in interstate commerce, we must now pass upon the question whether the allowance of an attorney's fee in such a case pursuant to the Texas statute is repugnant to the commerce clause of the federal Constitution, or the Act to Regulate Commerce and amendments thereof.

By way of preface, we should repeat that the state court of last resort has construed the act as relating only to the collection of claims not exceeding $200 in amount; that, by its terms, it applies to claims

against any person or corporation doing business in this state, for personal services rendered or for labor done, or for material furnished, or for overcharges on freight or express, or for any claim for lost or...

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