Missouri Pac Ry Co v. State of Nebraska Board of Transportation

Decision Date30 November 1896
Docket NumberNo. 1,1
Citation41 L.Ed. 489,164 U.S. 403,17 S.Ct. 130
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 403-411 intentionally omitted] John F. Dillon, for plaintiff in error. A. S. Churchill and Geo. H. Hastings, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice GRAY, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The arguments in this case have taken a wider range than is required for its decision. The material facts, as assumed by the court below, are as follows:

The Missouri Pacific Railway Company, a corporation of the state of Nebraska, was the owner of the right of way and depot grounds, within which were its main and side tracks, its stations and other shipping facilities, at Elmwood, in that state, and had permitted two elevators to be erected and operated by private firms on the side track at that station.

John W. Hollenbeck and others (apparently not a corporation, but a voluntary association of persons owning farms and leaseholds in the neighborhood of Elmwood, upon which they raised corn, wheat, oats, and other cereals, large quantities of which were ready for market) made an application in writing to the railway company to grant them 'a location on the right of way at Elmwood station aforesaid for the erection of an elevator of sufficient capacity to store from time to time the cereal products of the farms and leaseholds of' the applicants, 'as well as the products of other neighboring farms.' That application was refused by the railway company.

The applicants then made a complaint to the board of transportation of the state of Nebraska, alleging that the two elevators already built on the right of way of the rail- way company at Elmwood station were, 'during certain seasons of the year, wholly insufficient in affording a market for the cereals of the complainants and others desirous of marketing their grain,' and that the refusal of the railway company to grant to the complainants a location for an elevator was in violation of the Nebraska statute of 1887, c. 60, in that such refusal was an unjust discrimination, and that the railway company, by such refusal, was subjecting the complainants to an undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage in respect to traffic facilities, over other localities, and was giving an undue and unreasonable preference and advantage to the owners and operators of the two elevators already built at the station.

The board of transportation, after notice to the railway company, and hearing evidence and arguments, found that the two existing elevators were insufficient to handle the grain shipped at Elmwood station, and the owners and operators of those elevators had entered into a combination to fix the prices of grain, and to prevent competition in the price thereof, and there were not sufficient facilities for the handling and shipping of grain at that station; that it was necessary for the convenience of the public that another elevator should be erected and operated there; that, by reason of the side track being placed within the right of way and depot grounds, the complainants could not ship grain without building their elevator upon the grounds of the railway company; that there was room upon those grounds for another elevator, without materially interfering with the operation of the railroad, and the building of an elevator thereon by the complainants would not materially affect the railway company in the use of its grounds, or be an unreasonable burden to it; and that the granting by the railway company of the right and privilege to the owners of the two elevators now standing, and refusing to grant the like right and privilege to the complainants, was an unjust and unreasonable discrimination against the complainants, and unlawfully gave a preference and advantage to the owners of the two existing elevators.

The board of transportation thereupon ordered that the railway company, within 10 days, grant to the complainants, on like terms and conditions as granted to the owners of the two existing elevators, the right and privilege of erecting an elevator upon its grounds, and adjacent to its track, at a point specified in the order, or at some other suitable and convenient place, if the parties could agree, and grant to the complainants all and equal facilities for the handling and shipping of grain at that station which it granted to other shippers of grain there, and cease from all discrimination or preference to and of shippers and operators of elevators at that station.

The railway company not having complied with the order, the supreme court of the state, upon a petition in the name of the state, at the relation of the board of transportation, for a mandamus, and an answer thereto and hearing thereon, found the issues in favor of the relators, and adjudged that unless the railway company, within 40 days, complied with the order of the board of transportation, a writ of mandamus should issue to compel compliance with that order according to its terms. In the opinion of the court, it was said, 'The correctness of the findings of the board is not seriously questioned, but its power to make such findings and order is denied.' 29 Neb. 556, 45 N. W. 787.

The statute of Nebraska of 1887, c. 60, §§ 1-3, prohibits, and declares to be unlawful, all unjust and unreasonable charges made by a railroad company for any services rendered in the transportation (which includes all instrumentalities of shipment or carriage) of passengers or property, or in connection therewith, or for the receiving, delivering, storage, or handling of such property. The demanding or collecting, directly or indirectly, by a railroad company, from any person, of a greater compensation for such service than it demands or collects from any other person for a like and contemporaneous service in the transportation of a like kind of traffic under substantially similar circumstances and conditions, is declared to be unjust discrimination. It is also made unlawful to give any preference or advantage to, or to subject to...

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