J. M Pace Mule Co v. Seabd. Air Line Ry. Co

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
Citation76 S.E. 513,160 N.C. 215
Decision Date20 November 1912

76 S.E. 513
160 N.C. 215


Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Nov. 20, 1912.

1. Carriers (§ 53*)— Bill. of Lading.

The bill of lading establishes a contractual relation between the railroad company and shipper, by which the carrier agrees for a consideration to transport and deliver the freight.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Carriers, Cent. Dig. §§ 131, 105-167; Dec. Dig. § 53.*]

2. Action (§ 27*)—Contract of Tort-Freight—Delivery.

In addition to the contractual duty imposed by the bill of lading, the law imposes upon a carrier the duty of carrying safely and delivering within a reasonable time, a breach of which is a tort

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Action, Cent. Dig. §§ 160-195; Dec. Dig. § 27.*]

3. Negligence (§ 1*)—Elements.

The elements involved in a cause of action for negligence are the existence of a duty to protect plaintiff from injury, failure to perform such duty, and resulting injury.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Negligence, Cent. Dig. § 1; Dec. Dig. § 1.*

For other definitions, see Words and Phrases, vol. 5, pp. 4743-4763; vol. 8, pp. 7729-7731.]

4. Carriers (§ 150*)—Exemptions from Liability—Negligence.

A common carrier cannot exempt itself by contract from partial or complete liability for damage from its negligence.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Carriers, Cent. Dig. §§ 654-659; Dec. Dig. § 150.*]

5 Courts (§ 489*)—Exsclusive Jurisdiction—Interstate Commerce.

Where Congress has legislated with respect to a matter on which it is authorized to legislate, such as interstate commerce, its power as to such matter is exclusive, and the state courts have no jurisdiction thereof.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Courts, Cent. Dig. §§ 1324-1341, 1372-1374; Dec. Dig. § 489.*]

6. Statutes (§ 158*)—Implied Repeal.

Implied repeals of statutes are not favored.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Statutes, Cent. Dig. § 228; Dec. Dig. § 158.*]

7. Statutes (§ 239*)— Construction—Repeal— Common Law.

A statute will not be construed as taking away a common-law right, unless the right is so repugnant to the existence of the statute that to construe the statute, leaving it existing, would render it inoperative.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Statutes, Cent. Dig. § 320; Dec. Dig. § 239.*]

8. Commerce (§ 10*) —Interstate Commerce.

The control given to the Interstate Commerce Commission over interstate commerce does not deprive the state of the right to enforce laws incidentally affecting commerce, in the absence of action by Congress or the Commission as to the particular matter.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Commerce, Cent. Dig. § 8; Dec. Dig. § 10.*]

9. Carriers (§ 158*)—Exemptions from Liability—Valuation Clause.

A clause in a bill of lading fixing the value of the goods shipped will not relieve the carrier from liability for the full value of the goods if they are destroyed by its negligence.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Carriers, Cent. Dig. §§ 663-667, 699-703 1/2, 708-710, 718, 718 1/2; Dec. Dig. § 158.*]

10. Courts (§ 372*)—Rule of Decisions. The United States Supreme Court follows the decisions of the state courts in determining whether an interstate carrier may relieve itself from liability for negligence by a valuation clause if the case originated in the state courts.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Courts, Cent. Dig. §§ 977-979; Dec. Dig. § 372.*]

11. Commerce (§ 61*)—Interstate Commerce — Regulation by Congress — Effect.

The interstate commerce act (Act Feb. 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379 [U. S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3154]) would not prevent enforcement of a railroad company's liability for the full value of goods damaged in interstate carriage notwithstanding that the bill of lading valued the property; the act not purporting to relieve against the effect of a carrier's negligence.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Commerce, Cent. Dig. §§ 81-84, 89; Dec. Dig. § 61.*]

12. Commerce (§ 61*)—Interstate Commerce—Regulation by State.

Act June 29, 1906, c. 3591, § 7, 34 Stat. 593 (U. S. Comp. St. Supp. 1907, p. 909), provides that any common carrier receiving property for interstate transportation shall issue a bill of lading and be liable to the lawful holder thereof for any damage caused by any carrier, and no contract or regulation shall exempt such carrier from such liability, and nothing herein shall deprive the holder of the bill of lading of any right of action under existing laws. Held that, even if Congress had legislated on the question of the right of a carrier to exempt itself from liability for negligence, a right of action for damages for the full value of the freight injured, notwithstanding a valuation clause in the bill of lading, could be enforced in the state courts, having been reserved by the statute.

[Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Commerce, Cent. Dig. §§ 81-84, 89; Dec. Dig. § 61.*]

Brown and Walker, JJ., dissenting.

Appeal from Superior Court, Wake County; Cline, Judge.

Action by the J. M. Pace Mule Company against the Seaboard Air Line Railway Company. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant appeals. Affirmed.

This action was originally brought by the plaintiff against the Seaboard Air Line Railway and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company to recover $310 for the death of a mule alleged to have been caused by the negligence of the defendants in the course of transportation from East St. Louis, Ill., to Raleigh, N. C. The mule in question was one of a car load of 26 shipped by the Maxwell-Crouch Mule Company to the plaintiff company on March 3, 1911. The mules arrived at Raleigh March 8, 1911. The injury to the mule was apparent when he was unloaded, and he was sent to the stable of a veterinary surgeon by the defendant's agent. A few days after being sent to the stable the mule died.

[76 S.E. 514]

At the trial the court instructed the jury that there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, and the verdict rendered placed the responsibility for the mule's death entirely on the Seaboard Air Line Railway.

The defendant pleaded the provisions of the act to regulate commerce, as amended, as restricting the plaintiff's right to recover more than $100 for the death of this mule, and offered in evidence tariffs and classifications on file with the Interstate Commerce Commission, from which it appeared that the rate charged and the valuation fixed in the contract upon which this shipment moved are in accordance with the published tariff rate. The defendants also pleaded the provisions of the contract of shipment, fixing the value of the mule at $100, as a bar to plaintiff's right to recover more than that amount under the law as declared by the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The contract recited a rate of $170 per car, and contained this provision: "Should damage occur for which the said carrier may be liable, the value at the place and date of shipment shall govern the settlement, in which the amount claimed shall not exceed * * * for a horse or mule $100 * * * which amounts it Is agreed are as much as such animals as are herein agreed to be transported are worth." The defendant also offered evidence tending to prove that the rate on horses and mules from National Stockyards, Ill., to Raleigh, N. C, via Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company and Seaboard Air Line is $170 per standard car, plus $1 bed charges and feed charges en route; when regular live stock contract is executed, which limits liability of carrier, not to exceed $100 per animal in case of loss or damage. In case the shipper desires not to accept contract limiting liability, he can increase the valuation of the animals, but for every increase of 100 per cent. or fraction thereof in the value of his animals the freight rate is increased 20 per cent. more on the car.

The jury returned the following verdict:

"(1) Was plaintiff's mule injured by the negligence of the defendant Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, as alleged in the complaint? Answer: No.

"(2) Was plaintiff's mule injured by the negligence of the defendant Seaboard Air Line Railway, as alleged in the complaint? Answer: Yes.

"(3) Did the plaintiff comply with the contract of shipment as to the giving of notice to the railroad company (Seaboard) as to his claim for damages? Answer: Yes.

"(4) What damages, if any, is plaintiff entitled to recover? Answer: $285."

His honor, being of opinion that the clause in the bill of lading limiting the value to $100 did not prevent the recovery of the damages sustained by negligence, and that to permit such a recovery did not interfere with the act to regulate interstate commerce, rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff for $285, and costs, and the defendant excepted and appealed,

Murray Allen, of Raleigh, for appellant.

S. Brown Shepherd, of Raleigh, for appellee.

ALLEN, J. [1] The execution of a bill of lading by a railroad company establishes a contractual relationship between it and the shipper, the carrier agreeing, for a consideration, to transport and to deliver, and the shipper agreeing to pay the consideration. This is the contract. 4 Elliott on Railroads, § 1415.

In addition to the obligations contained in the contract, the law imposes upon the company other obligations and duties, and justifies its right to do so because the company is a creation of the law, enjoys a virtual monopoly of the carriage of freight within a certain distance, and exercises the right of eminent domain, which can only be conferred in consideration of public service. Branch v. Railroad, 77 N. C. 349. "He [the common carrier] exercises a public employment, and has duties to the public to perform." York Co. v. Railroad, 70 U. S. (3 Wall.) 112, 18 L. Ed. 170. "Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence and affect the public at large. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants to the public...

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