271 U.S. 251 (1926), 257, Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company v. Alvin R. Durham Company

Docket Nº:No. 257. Argued April 20, 1926.-Decided May 24, 1926
Citation:271 U.S. 251, 46 S.Ct. 509, 70 L.Ed. 931
Party Name:Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company v. Alvin R. Durham Company
Case Date:May 24, 1926
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 251

271 U.S. 251 (1926)

46 S.Ct. 509, 70 L.Ed. 931

Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company


Alvin R. Durham Company

No. 257. Argued April 20, 1926.-Decided May 24, 1926

United States Supreme Court

May 24, 1926



1. The Uniform Bill of Lading Act of August 29, 1916, c. 415, § 23, presents no obstacle to garnishment of a carrier after the order bill of lading has been surrendered; neither does that Act confer a right of garnishment. P. 256.

2. The fact that, by § 5 of the Uniform Bill of Lading, as construed by this Court in Michigan Central R. Co. v. Mark Owen & Co., 256 U.S. 427, a carrier may remain liable qua carrier to the consignee of an interstate carload shipment after surrender of the bill of lading and payment of charges and while the car is on a train track and turned over to the consignee for the purpose of unloading, and partly unloaded by him, is not determinative of the carrier's liability as garnishee in a suit by a stranger seeking to collect a debt from the consignee. P. 255.

3. The carrier's liability to garnishment in such circumstances depends on the state law. P. 257.

229 Mich. 468 reversed.

Certiorari to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan holding the Railway Company liable as garnishee in a suit by Alvin R. Durham Company to collect a debt from one Fred S. Larson, as principal defendant. See also 224 Mich. 477.

Page 254

BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

By an interstate shipment made under the uniform order bill of lading, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway received in 1921 at its yards in Ironwood, Michigan, a boxcar containing apples consigned to the shipper's order "notify F. M. Larson." The car was placed on the "team track," which is one of the public delivery tracks used for unloading freight received in carload shipments and is not connected in any manner with a railway freight warehouse. The next morning at 8:20 o'clock, Larson surrendered the bill of lading, duly indorsed, paid the freight charges, gave to the railway his receipt for the apples, and commenced unloading the car. On the same day, the Alvin R. Durham Company sued out a writ of garnishment against the railway, which was served at 9:45 a.m. At that time, about one-quarter of the apples had already been taken from the car by Larson. In spite of the service of the writ of garnishment, the railway did not prevent the further unloading. This was not completed until four days later. Meanwhile, the car was locked every night by Larson. During this period of unloading,

Page 255

the car was shifted several times by the railway for its own convenience in the use of the team tracks.

The trial court directed a verdict for the garnishee on the ground that the railway did not have the custody, control, or possession of the shipment. The Supreme Court of Michigan reversed that judgment, and held the carrier liable on the ground that,

under the interpretation of § 5 of the uniform bill of lading, as appears pears in Michigan Cent. R. Co. v. [Mark] Owen [& Co.], 256 U.S. 427, . . . the railway did have the custody, control, and possession of the interstate shipment.

Id., 229 Mich. 468. See also Chicago & N.W. R. Co. v. Durham Co., 265 U.S. 580. This Court granted a writ of certiorari. 268 U.S. 684. The sole question for decision is whether the railway is liable as garnishee.

The facts in the two...

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