Louisville Nashville Railroad Company v. Central Stock Yards Company, 51

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHolmes
Citation53 L.Ed. 441,212 U.S. 132,29 S.Ct. 246
Docket NumberNo. 51,51
Decision Date25 January 1909

212 U.S. 132
29 S.Ct. 246
53 L.Ed. 441



No. 51.
Argued December 10, 11, 1908.
Decided January 25, 1909.

Page 133

Messrs. Helm Bruce, Henry L. Stone, James P. Helm, and Kennedy Helm for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 133 intentionally omitted]

Page 134

Messrs. Joseph C. Dodd and John L. Dodd for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 134-137 intentionally omitted]

Page 138

Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

This is a proceeding in equity prosecuted in the courts of Kentucky, similar in the main to one in the United States courts between the same parties, that was decided by the circuit court of appeals in 63 L.R.A. 213, 55 C. C. A. 63, 118 Fed. 113, and by this court in 192 U. S. 568, 48 L. ed. 565, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 339. The latter was brought by the Central Stock Yards Company, a Delaware corporation, against the railroad company, a Kentucky corporation, to compel it to receive live stock tendered to it outside the state of Kentucky for the Central Stock Yards station, and to deliver the same at a point of physical connection between its road and the Southern Railway, for ultimate delivery to or at the Central Stock Yards. The Central Stock Yards station is at the Central Stock Yards, just outside the boundary line of Louisville, Kentucky, on the Southern Railway Company's line, and, by agreement between the two companies, the Central Stock Yards were the live-stock depot for the purpose of handling live stock to and from Louisville on the Southern Railway. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad, by a similar arrangement, had made the Bourbon Stock Yards its

Page 139

livestock depot for Louisville, and declined to receive live stock billed to the Central Stock Yards, or to deliver live stock destined to Louisville elsewhere than at the Bourbon Yards. There were physical connections between the Louisville & Nashville and the Southern tracks at a point between the two stock yards which was passed by the greater portion of the live stock carried by the Louisville & Nashville Company, and at another point that would be more convenient for delivery, a little further to the northward. In order to deliver as prayed the Louisville & Nashville would have been compelled either to build chutes or to hand over its cars to the Southern Railway. The right was claimed under the interstate commerce act of February 4, 1887, chap. 104, § 3, 24 Stat. at L. 379, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3154, and the Constitution of Kentucky, especially § 213. The circuit court of appeals and this court agreed that the right was not conferred by the former act. As to the Constitution of Kentucky, the circuit court of appeals held that if it could be given any such construction as to make it purport to give the plaintiff a right to the relief sought, it would be making a void attempt to regulate interstate commerce. This court, on the general principle that a construction was to be adopted, if possible, that would save the instrument from constitutional objections, followed the suggestion of the circuit court of appeals, read the section as not requiring the railroad to deliver its own cars, and affirmed a decree dismissing the bill.

The material sections of the Constitution of Kentucky are as follows:

'Sec. 213. All railroad, transfer, belt lines, and railway bridge companies, organized under the laws of Kentucky, or operating, maintaining, or controlling any railroad, transfer, belt lines, or bridges, or doing a railway business in this state, shall receive, transfer, deliver, and switch empty or loaded cars, and shall move, transport, receive, load, or unload all the freight in car loads or less quantities, coming to or going from any railroad, transfer, belt line, bridge, or siding thereon, with equal promptness and despatch, and without any discrimination as to

Page 140

charges, preference, drawback, or rebate in favor of any person, corporation, consignee, or consignor, in any matter as to payment, transportation, handling, or delivery; and shall so receive, deliver, transfer, and transport all freight as above set forth, from and to any point where there is a physical connection between the tracks of said companies. But this section shall not be construed as requiring any such common carrier to allow the use of its tracks for the trains of another engaged in like business.

'Sec. 214. No railway, transfer, belt line, or railway bridge company shall make any exclusive or preferential contract or arrangement with any individual, association, or corporation, for the receipt, transfer, delivery, transportation, handling, care, or custody of any freight, or for the conduct of any business as a common carrier.'

The present case was begun by the defendant in error earlier than the one just stated, and sought similar relief without regard to the place where the stock was received. A preliminary injunction was issued, and soon led to proceedings for contempt on the charge that it had been disobeyed. The court of first instance held that the injunction applied to an interstate shipment when the owner had sought to bill it to the Southern Railway at Louisville for delivery to the Central Stock Yards and had been refused, and thereafter, at the breakup yards, so called, of the Louisville & Nashville road, by giving notice to change the destination, had attempted to bring about the desired result. This decision was reversed by the court of appeals (Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Miller, 112 Ky. 464, 66 S. W. 5), and thereupon the before-mentioned bill in the United States court was brought, to deal with interstate shipments, with a prayer, also, that the railroad be required to recognize changes of destination; while the present proceeding was kept on foot to cover all that it lawfully might. At a later date, the petition, as it is called, in this case, was amended so as to pray that the plaintiff in error might be required, upon tender by the Southern Railway, to receive, at a point of physical connection

Page 141

with the Southern Railway, live stock from the Central Stock Yards, and to deliver the same to the consignee at the Bourbon Stock Yards or any depot on its line.

After the decision in the other case, the railroad company asked leave to plead the decree as a bar to so much of the relief in the present action as relates to stock shipped or desired to be shipped from points outside of Kentucky to points within Kentucky. The trial court, being of opinion that the decree would not be a bar, refused leave, but ordered the proposed amendment to be made part of the record for the purpose of appeal. After final hearing a judgment was entered for the plaintiff, the defendant in error, granting all the prayers of the bill. The railroad company was ordered (1) to receive at its stations in Kentucky, and 'to bill, transport, transfer, switch, and deliver in the customary way,' at some point of physical connection with the tracks of the Southern Railway, and particularly at one described, all live stock or other freight consigned to the Central Stock Yards or to persons doing business there. (2) It was ordered, further, to transfer, switch, and deliver to the Southern Railway at the said point of connection, 'any and all live stock or other freight coming over its lines in Kentucky consigned' to the Central Stock Yards or persons doing business there. (3) It was ordered, further, to receive at the same point and to 'transfer, switch, transport, and deliver all live stock' consigned to anyone at the Bourbon Stock Yards, 'the shipment of which originates at the Central Stock Yards;' with proviso requiring pay or tender of proper charges for its services, whenever demanded, at the time such live stock or other freight is offered. (4) Finally, the railroad company was required, whenever requested by the consignor, consignee, or owner of the stock, 'at any of the stations, and particularly at its break-up yards in South Louisville, Kentucky,' to recognize their right to change the destination, and, upon payment of the full Louisville freight rate and proper presentation of the bill of lading, duly indorsed, the railroad was required to change the destination and deliver at a point of connection with the Southern Railway tracks for

Page 142

delivery by the latter to the Central Stock Yards. This judgment was affirmed by the court of appeals, whereupon this writ of error was brought. The points relied upon are that due credit was denied to the decree by the United States court; that, if the Constitution of Kentucky purports to authorize the requirement in the judgment as to delivery of shipments from outside the state, it attempts to regulate commerce among the states; that, if the same instrument authorizes the requirement in the judgment that the railroad company should give up possession of its cars to the Southern Railway Company, it attempts to deprive the railroad of its property without due process of law; and that the same constitutional objection applies to the attempt to make the railroad do switching work over its terminal property in Louisville between two points in the city when the shipment was neither coming into the city nor going out of the city over the lines of the plaintiff in error's road.

The court of appeals found itself unable to pass over the bridge laid by this court in its construction of the state Constitution, § 213. It held that that section did purport to require the plaintiff in error to deliver its own cars, under the circumstances of the case, to the extent of the judgment that it affirmed. It declined to follow the decision of this court that, for the purposes of the case before it, the two stock yards stood on the same footing as if they were the stations of two railroads placed side by side. It decided that the state Constitution, as...

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