Stevens & Russell v. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co.

Decision Date11 May 1915
Docket Number(No. 1437.)
Citation178 S.W. 810
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Appeal from District Court, Bowie County; W. T. Armistead, Judge.

Action by Stevens & Russell against the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company. From a judgment for defendant, plaintiffs appeal. Affirmed.

Crane & Crane and C. M. Smithdeal, all of Dallas, for appellants. Glass, Estes, King & Burford, of Texarkana, for appellee.


July 2, 1910, appellants delivered to appellee at Stephens, Ark., 475 bales of cotton to be transported over appellee's and connecting lines of railway to New York City. Appellants claimed, and offered evidence tending to prove, that the cotton was in good condition when it was delivered to appellee, and that it was in bad condition from exposure to the weather when it reached its destination. They further claimed, and offered evidence to prove, that their purpose in shipping the cotton to New York was to enable them to comply with contracts they had made to deliver there in July cotton they had sold, and that appellee had notice of their purpose before and at the time it accepted same for transportation as stated. Appellants further claimed that the cotton was not promptly carried to its destination, but that, on the contrary, the transportation thereof was negligently delayed, so that same did not reach New York in time to be used by them in complying with their said contracts. They claimed that because of such delay they had to buy on the market in New York the cotton needed to fill said contracts, at a loss to them, in the difference between prices they had to pay and the prices at which they had agreed to sell, of $2,000. They further claimed that they had to expend $712.50 in having the cotton so "reconditioned" as to be marketable after it reached its destination, and that they lost $940.58 due to depreciation in the market value of a portion of the cotton because of its damaged condition. They sought a recovery against appellee of the aggregate of the sums mentioned, to wit, $3,653.08. The court instructed the jury to find in appellee's favor, and on their verdict in accordance with the instruction rendered judgment that appellants take nothing by their suit against appellee.

As stated above, there was testimony tending to show that the cotton was injured by exposure to the weather after it was delivered to appellee and before it reached New York, and that as a consequence thereof a portion of it was worth less than it otherwise would have been worth, and that appellants incurred expense in reconditioning it they otherwise would not have been subjected to. Clearly, therefore, unless it appeared that appellee, by the terms of the contract covering the shipment, had been relieved of the liability it may have incurred to compensate appellants for damages such testimony tended to show they had suffered, the trial court erred in instructing the jury as stated. That court evidently was of opinion appellee had been so relieved by the failure of appellants to comply with a stipulation in the policy as follows:

"Claims for loss, damage or delay must be made in writing to the carrier at the point of delivery or at the point of origin within four months after delivery of the property, or in case of failure to make delivery then within four months after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed. Unless claims are so made the carrier shall not be liable."

It was shown that all the cotton was delivered in New York before August 20, 1910, and it was shown that appellants did not make any claim on account of the damages they sued for until December 31, 1910. It thus appeared that the stipulation set out above was not complied with. So the question is: Did the failure of appellants to comply with it operate to bar a right in them, if they ever had one, to recover the damages they sued for?

Appellants insist the stipulation was invalid under that part, known as the Carmack amendment, of section 20 of the Interstate Commerce Act, as follows:

"That any common carrier, railroad, or transportation company receiving property for transportation from a point in one state to a point in another state shall issue a receipt or bill of lading therefor and shall be liable to the lawful holder thereof for any loss, damage, or injury to such property caused by it or by any common carrier, railroad, or transportation company to which such property may be delivered or over whose line or lines such property may pass, and no contract, receipt, rule, or regulation shall exempt such common carrier, railroad, or transportation company from the liability hereby imposed." U. S. Comp. St. 1913, § 8592.

The contrary seems to have been in effect determined in Railway Co. v. Harriman, 227 U. S. 657, 33 Sup. Ct. 397, 57 L. Ed. 690. In that case it was contended that a stipulation in a contract that no suit should be brought after the lapse of 90 days from the happening of any loss or damage, "any statute or limitation to the contrary notwithstanding," was void. The trial court and Court of Civil Appeals sustained the contention. The Supreme Court overruled it, and, after saying that "the liability sought to be enforced is the `liability' of an interstate carrier for loss or damage under an interstate contract of shipment declared by the Carmack amendment of the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906," and that "the validity of any stipulation in such a contract which involves the construction of the statute, and the validity of a limitation upon the liability thereby imposed, is a federal question to be determined under the general common law, and, as such, is withdrawn from the field of state law or legislation," declared that:

"The liability imposed by the statute is the liability imposed by the common law upon a common carrier, and may be limited or qualified by special contract with the shipper, provided the limitation or qualification be just and reasonable, and does not exempt from loss or responsibility due to negligence."

This court is bound by the construction given by that court to the statute referred to. We see no reason why if the stipulation in question in that case should be held to be valid, notwithstanding the statute, the one in question here should not be. It was expressly held by that court, in Southern Express Co. v. Caldwell, 21 Wall. 264, 22 L. Ed. 556, that a stipulation similar to the one here was valid under the common law. In that case the court said:

"It may be remarked, in the first place, that the stipulation is not a conventional limitation of the right of the carrier's employer to sue. He is left at liberty to sue at any time within the period fixed by the statute of limitations. He is only required to make his claim within 90 days, in season to enable the carrier to ascertain what the facts are, and, having made his claim, he may delay his suit. It may also be remarked that the contract is not a stipulation for exemption from responsibility for the defendants' negligence, or for that of their servants. It is freely conceded that, had it been such, it would have been against the policy of the law, and inoperative. * * * A common carrier is always responsible for his negligence, no matter what his stipulations may be. But an agreement that, in case of failure by the carrier to deliver the goods, a claim shall be made by the bailor, or by the consignee, within a specified period, if that period be a reasonable one, is altogether of a different character. It contravenes no public policy. It excuses no negligence. It is perfectly consistent with holding the carrier to the fullest measure of good faith, of diligence, and of capacity, which the strictest rules of the common law ever required."

The contention made that it appeared that the stipulation was void because it was without...

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6 cases
  • Erisman v. Chi., B. & Q. R. Co.
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1917
    ...he delivered the statement, but the terms of the statement itself. The latter he could not do by parol testimony. Stevens v. St. Louis Ry. Co. (Tex. Civ. App.) 178 S. W. 810; M., K. & T. Ry. Co. v. Harriman Bros., 227 U. S. 657, 33 Sup. Ct. 397, 57 L. Ed. 690;Southern Express Co. v. Caldwel......
  • Erisman v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co.
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1917
    ... ...          GAYNOR, ... C. J., LADD, EVANS, PRESTON and STEVENS", JJ., concur ... SALINGER, J., WEAVER, J., (dissenting) ...      \xC2" ... could not do by parol testimony. Stevens v. St. Louis ... S.W. R. Co. , (Tex.) 178 S.W. 810; Missouri, K. & T ... R. Co. v ... carrier, the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad Company, ... under the Carmack Amendment of Sec. 20 of the ... ...
  • Mason v. Maine Cent. R. Co.
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • June 3, 1920
    ...a stipulation valid and binding it has been printed in full on the bill of lading thus: The 4-months notice clause in Stevens v. Railway Co. (Tex. Civ. App.) 178 S. W. 810, Sims v. Mo. Pac. Ry. Co., 177 Mo. App. 18, 163 S. W. 275, and Albrecht v. Penn. Ry., 86 N. J. Law, 355, 92 Atl. 381; t......
  • St. Louis, B. & M. Ry. Co. v. Marcofich
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • March 24, 1916
    ...therefor, independent of the one on which the contract as a whole was based, would not invalidate the stipulations. Stevens & Russell v. Railway Co., 178 S. W. 810. Whether appellants' contention as to their effect should be sustained or not depends, therefore, upon whether it should be sai......
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