Texas Ry Co v. Leatherwood

Decision Date09 June 1919
Docket NumberNo. 249,249
Citation250 U.S. 478,63 L.Ed. 1096,39 S.Ct. 517
PartiesTEXAS & P. RY. CO. et al. v. LEATHERWOOD
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. George Thompson and J. H. Barwise, Jr., both of Ft. Worth, Tex., for petitioners.

Mr. D. T. Bomar, of Ft. Worth, Tex., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS announced the judgment of the Court, and delivered the following opinion:

Leatherwood made, in 1913, a shipment of horses from Watrous, N. M., to Waco, Tex., over four connecting railroads. The initial carrier gave him a through bill of lading which contained a provision barring any action for damages unless suit was brought within six months after the loss occurred. When the horses reached the lines of the Texas & Pacific Railway and of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, each of these companies insisted, as a condition of carrying them further, that Leatherwood accept and sign a new bill of lading covering the shipment over its line, and he did so.

In 1915 he brought suit in a state court of Texas for injury to the horses while in transit on the lines of those two companies. The bills of lading issued by them did not contain the provision requiring suit to be brought within six months; but the carriers set up as a defense the provisions to that effect contained in the original bill of lading, contending that under the Carmack Amendment (Act of June 29, 1906, . 3591, 34 Stat. 584, 595 [Comp. St. §§ 8604a, 8604aa]) all connecting carriers were bound by its terms and that the later ones issued by themselves were of no legal effect.1 The trial court denied this contention, and ruled as matter of law that the carriers could not rely upon the provision in the initial bill of lading. Judgment was entered for the plaintiff and affirmed by the Court of Civil Appeals. On June 2, 1917, that court denied a rehearing and declined to certify to the Supreme Court of Texas the questions involved. The case comes here on writ of certiorari (245 U. S. 649, 38 Sup. Ct. 12, 62 L. Ed. 530) under section 237 of the Judicial Code (Act March 3, 1911, c. 231, 36 Stat. 1156), as amended by Act of September 6, 1916, c. 448, § 2, 39 Stat. 726 (Comp. St. § 1214).

The final decision below was rendered two days before the decision of this court in Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co. v. Ward, 244 U. S. 383, 37 Sup. Ct. 617, 61 L. Ed. 1213. There one of the same railroads had, as connecting carrier, issued a second bill of lading to shippers of live stock, who had received from the initial carriers a through bill of lading on an interstate shipment. But there the carriers relied for defense upon a clause in the second bill of lading, which was not contained in the first. We held that the second bill of lading was void, since under the Carmack Amendment the several carriers must be treated, not as independent contracting parties, but as one system; and that the connecting lines become in effect mere agents whose duty it is to forward the goods under the terms of the contract made by their principal, the initial carrier, and that they are prevented by law from varying the terms of that contract. Leatherwood contends that the principle upon which the case was decided is not applicable here, because there the carriers sought to avail themselves of the second bill of lading, while here they seek to ignore it; and he insists that the carriers are, by their conduct, estopped from asserting its invalidity. As stated in Georgia, Florida & Alabama Ry. Co. v. Blish Milling Co., 241 U. S. 190, 197, 36 Sup. Ct. 541, 60 L. Ed. 948, the parties to a bill of lading cannot waive its terms, nor can the carrier by its conduct give the shipper a right to ignore them. 'A different view would antagonize the plain policy of the act and open the door to the very abuses at which the act was aimed.' The bill of lading given by the initial carrier embodies the contract for transportation from point of origin to destination; and its terms in respect to conditions of liability are binding upon the shipper and upon all connecting carriers, just as a rate properly filed by the initial carrier is binding upon them. Each has in effect the force of a statute, of which all affected must take notice. That a carrier cannot be prevented by estoppel or otherwise from taking advantage of the lawful rate properly filed under the Interstate Commerce Act is well settled. A carrier has, for instance, been permitted to collect the legal rate, although it had quoted a lower rate and the shipper was ignorant of the fact that it was not the legal rate. Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Mugg, 202 U. S. 242, 26 Sup. Ct. 628, 50 L. Ed. 1011; Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Henderson Elevator Co., 226 U. S. 441, 33 Sup. Ct. 176, 57 L. Ed. 290...

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