241 U.S. 319 (1916), 59, Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific

Docket Nº:No. 59
Citation:241 U.S. 319, 36 S.Ct. 555, 60 L.Ed. 1022
Party Name:Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific
Case Date:May 22, 1916
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 319

241 U.S. 319 (1916)

36 S.Ct. 555, 60 L.Ed. 1022

Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific

No. 59

United States Supreme Court

May 22, 1916

Railway Company v. Rankin

Argued November 5, 1915




Where the state court has treated the instrument involved as properly in evidence and has undertaken to determine its validity and effect, this Court need not consider mooted questions of pleading as to whether such instrument was properly before the court.

Rights and liabilities of parties to an interstate shipment by rail depend upon Acts of Congress, the bill of lading, and common law principles as accepted and applied in federal tribunals.

The interpretation and effect of a bill of lading of an interstate shipment may present a federal question even though there is not affirmative proof that the carrier has filed tariff schedules in compliance with the Act to Regulate Commerce.

It will not be presumed, in absence of affirmative proof to the contrary, that an interstate carrier is conducting its affairs in violation of law. The presumption that all things required by law are rightly done applies unless the circumstances of the case overturn it.

Where a carrier by rail offers rates for interstate shipments fairly based upon valuation, it may limit its liability by special contract.

Recitals in a bill of lading, signed by both carrier and shipper, that lawful alternate rates based on valuations were offered constitute admissions by the shipper and prima facie evidence of choice, and cast on the shipper the burden of proof to contradict his own admissions.

The facts, which involve the construction of the Act to Regulate Commerce and the Carmack Amendment thereto, as applied to a shipment of cattle under a bill of lading containing stipulations for limited liability, are stated in the opinion.

Page 320

MCREYNOLDS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Defendants in error, experienced shippers, on November 6, 1911, delivered to plaintiff railway at Danville, Kentucky, a car of mules, nineteen of which they owned, for transportation to Atlanta, Georgia. They signed and accepted a through bill of lading, the pertinent portions of which follow:

Contract for Limited Liability in the Transportation

of Livestock at Reduced Rates

3. Limit of value. That this agreement is subject to the following terms and conditions, which the said shipper accepts as just and reasonable, and which he admits having read and having had explained to him by the agent of the said carrier, viz.:

That the published freight rates on livestock of said carrier are, in all cases, based on the following maximum calculations, which are as high as the profit in the freight rates will admit of the carrier assuming responsibility for:

* * * *

Horses or mules, not exceeding $75 each

* * * *

That the tariff regulations of said carrier provide that for every increase of 100 percent or fraction thereof in the above valuations, there shall be an increase of fifty percent in the freight rate, and that the said shipper, in order to avail himself of said published freight rates, agrees that said carrier shall not, in any case of loss

Page 321

or damage to said livestock, be liable for any sum in excess of the actual value of said stock at the place and date of shipment, nor for any amount in excess of the values stated above, which are hereby agreed to be not less than the just and true values of the animals, unless an additional amount is herein stated and paid for.

4. Guaranteed freight rate. That the rate of freight guaranteed by said carrier, in view of the above stipulated valuations is $ ___ per ___ from _____ _____ to _____ _____, and that said shipper accepts this rate of freight and agrees to pay same at destination in connection with the charges advanced by said carrier, as indicated above, and any other legitimate charges which said carrier may advance for account of [36 S.Ct. 556] said shipper between point of shipment and destination for feed, water, etc.

A wreck occurred at Dayton, Tennessee; some of the animals were killed, others were injured and afterwards sold by plaintiff in error, and shippers brought this suit in the Circuit Court, Hamilton County, Tennessee, to recover $4,750 -- $250 per head.

The declaration contains two counts. The first, a common law count on a general contract of affreightment, alleges delivery with agreement to pay full freight charges and that the carrier accepted and agreed to transport safely, but failed so to do. The second...

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