Southern Railway Company v. Prescott, No. 358

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHughes
Citation60 L.Ed. 836,240 U.S. 632,36 S.Ct. 469
PartiesSOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plff. in Err., v. W. E. PRESCOTT
Docket NumberNo. 358
Decision Date10 April 1916

240 U.S. 632
36 S.Ct. 469
60 L.Ed. 836
SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plff. in Err.,

v.

W. E. PRESCOTT.

No. 358.
Argued February 23, 1916.
Decided April 10, 1916.

Page 633

Messrs. Frank G. Tompkins and Benjamin L. Abney for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. J. Willard Ragsdale, W. H. Townsend, and J. Wm. Thurmond for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Hughes delivered the opinion of the court:

This action was brought to recover for the loss of nine boxes of shoes which were destroyed by fire, on July 4,

Page 634

1913, while in the possession of the Southern Railway Company, plaintiff in error. These boxes were part of a lot of thirteen boxes which had been shipped on June 21, 1913, at Petersburg, Virginia, by the Seaboard Air Line Railway and connections, consigned to W. E. Prescott, defendant in error, at Edgefield, South Carolina, and had arrived at Edgefield over the line of the Southern Railway Company on June 23, 1913. The plaintiff alleged three causes of action against the latter company: (1) as common-carrier, (2) as warehouseman, and (3) for penalty because of failure to adjust and pay the claim, after notice, as provided by law. The answer of the railway company, with a general denial, set up that the shipment was interstate and governed by the act to regulate commerce. At the close of the plaintiff's case, the railway company moved for a nonsuit and decision was reserved. The railway company then put in evidence the tariff rules, filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission, which governed the shipment. These provided that the reduced rates specified would 'apply on property shipped subject to the condition of carrier's bill of lading,' and that otherwise there would be an increased charge, as stated. One of the stipulations of the bill of lading was that 'property not removed by the party entitled to receive it within forty-eight hours (exclusive of legal holidays) after notice of its arrival' might be kept in car, depot, or warehouse, 'subject to reasonable charge for storage and to carrier's responsibility as warehouseman only.' The freight bill contained the provision: 'Demurrage and storage will be assessed at the expiration of the free time provided by the rules of this company.'

The agent for the railway company (confirming what had been said by the plaintiff's witness) testified that after notice of the arrival of the goods, the consignee had paid the entire freight charges, that he (the company's agent) 'had accepted the freight' and had the consignee's

Page 635

'receipt for the goods.' Four boxes were then taken away, and the rest were permitted to remain to meet the consignee's convenience in removal. The agent further testified: 'Q. What was the agreement with reference to holding those goods? A. He just wanted to know if it would be agreeable to leave them there, and I said it would be. Q. You did not make any charges for storing them? A. No, sir. Q. And did not expect him to pay any? No. sir.' The consignee's representative had testified that, while nothing had been said on the point, he expected to pay storage.

At the close of the testimony, the plaintiff withdrew his causes of action against the defendant as common carrier and for the penalty, and the case went to the jury solely with respect to the liability of the defendant as warehouseman. The railway company moved for a direction of a verdict upon the ground that, under the Federal act and the tariff regulations, the bill of lading defined the rights of the parties. The motion was denied. The trial court submitted to the jury the question of liability for the care of the goods as one arising under the state law, which cast upon the defendant the burden of showing that it was not negligent. The position of the railway company, as shown by its requests for instructions which were denied, was that the shipment had not lost its interstate character; that the provisions of the bill of lading were controlling; that the defendant's liability as warehouseman was governed by Federal law; and that the burden was upon the plaintiff to show negligence as a basis for recovery.

Judgment upon a verdict in favor of the plaintiff was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. 99 S. C. 422, 83 S. E. 781. With respect to the Federal question, the court said: 'The defendant claims that, inasmuch as this is an interstate shipment, the Federal statute governs. This question does not legitimately arise in this case for the reason

Page 636

that the appellant moved for a nonsuit on the ground that 'the evidence here shows that this freight arrived here on the 23d of June and that the freight was paid and receipted for by the agent of Dr. Prescott. He came for it and paid the freight, and I submit that where a common carrier delivered freight in good order, and has it in its depot and paid for, then its liability as a common carrier ceases.' The court reserved its decision on that question and before it was announced, the plaintiff withdrew the cause of action against defendant as common carrier and also the cause of action for the penalty. It therefore being conceded in the circuit court that the contract of carriage was ended, and the appellant held the goods by a separate contract, the question as to appellant's liability as common carrier and the Federal statute under which it might have arisen is not before this court, and the only question argued which we can consider is the question as to warehouseman.' The court then applied the rule of liability as defined by the state law. Id. p. 424. And this writ of error has been prosecuted.

As the shipment was interstate, and the bill of lading was issued pursuant to the Federal act, the question whether the contract thus set forth had been discharged was necessarily a Federal question. The reference, above quoted, to the concession in the trial court, cannot be taken to mean that this Federal question was not raised, for, as we have seen, it was distinctly presented and pressed; but we assume that the ruling, in substance, was that there was no dispute as to the fact that the goods had arrived, that the consignee had paid the freight and signed a receipt for the goods, and that the nine boxes had remained in the possession of the carrier under the permission given, as testified, by the carrier's agent. The question is whether this admitted transaction had the legal effect of discharging the contract governed by Federal law, and of creating a new obligation governed by state law.

Page 637

By the act to regulate commerce (§ 1) the 'transportation' it...

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266 practice notes
  • Texas City Term. Ry. Co. v. American Equit. Assur. Co., Civ. A. No. 542.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 25, 1955
    ...as a Terminal Railway; the published tariffs are binding upon it and all persons with which it deals — Southern Railway Co. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 S.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836. Tariff rules and provisions enter into and form a part of all contracts made with other persons — Hartness v. Ib......
  • Lichten v. Eastern Airlines, No. 166
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 22, 1951
    ...than numerous courts under diverse laws, have primary responsibility for supervising rates and services. Cf. Southern Ry. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 S.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836. Accordingly, this broad regulatory scheme, and not the common law, must govern the contract of the parties. Adams ......
  • Rice & Lockwood Lumber Co. v. Boston & M.R.R.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • January 10, 1941
    ...& Maine Railroad v. Hooker, 233 U.S. 97, 34 S.Ct. 526, 58 L.Ed. 868, L.R.A.1915B, 450, Ann.Cas.1915D, 593;Southern Railway v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 S.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836;St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway v. Starbird, 243 U.S. 592, 37 S.Ct. 462, 61 L.Ed. 917. The term ‘trans......
  • Landon v. Public Utilities Commission of State of Kansas, 136-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • April 21, 1917
    ...v. Ill. Cent. (D.C.) 230 F. 940; Penn. R. Co. v. Clark Co., 238 U.S. 456, 465-468, 35 Sup.Ct. 896, 59 L.Ed. 1406; So. Ry. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 Sup.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836; Penn. Ry. Co. v. Sonman, 242 U.S. 120, 37 Sup.Ct. 46, 61 L.Ed. 188; Grand Union Tea Co. v. Evans (D.C.) 216 F. 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
266 cases
  • Texas City Term. Ry. Co. v. American Equit. Assur. Co., Civ. A. No. 542.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 25, 1955
    ...as a Terminal Railway; the published tariffs are binding upon it and all persons with which it deals — Southern Railway Co. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 S.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836. Tariff rules and provisions enter into and form a part of all contracts made with other persons — Hartness v. Ib......
  • Lichten v. Eastern Airlines, No. 166
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 22, 1951
    ...than numerous courts under diverse laws, have primary responsibility for supervising rates and services. Cf. Southern Ry. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 S.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836. Accordingly, this broad regulatory scheme, and not the common law, must govern the contract of the parties. Adams ......
  • Rice & Lockwood Lumber Co. v. Boston & M.R.R.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • January 10, 1941
    ...& Maine Railroad v. Hooker, 233 U.S. 97, 34 S.Ct. 526, 58 L.Ed. 868, L.R.A.1915B, 450, Ann.Cas.1915D, 593;Southern Railway v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 S.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836;St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway v. Starbird, 243 U.S. 592, 37 S.Ct. 462, 61 L.Ed. 917. The term ‘trans......
  • Landon v. Public Utilities Commission of State of Kansas, 136-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • April 21, 1917
    ...v. Ill. Cent. (D.C.) 230 F. 940; Penn. R. Co. v. Clark Co., 238 U.S. 456, 465-468, 35 Sup.Ct. 896, 59 L.Ed. 1406; So. Ry. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632, 36 Sup.Ct. 469, 60 L.Ed. 836; Penn. Ry. Co. v. Sonman, 242 U.S. 120, 37 Sup.Ct. 46, 61 L.Ed. 188; Grand Union Tea Co. v. Evans (D.C.) 216 F. 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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