Tift v. Southern Ry. Co.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Georgia)
Citation123 F. 789
Decision Date16 July 1903
PartiesTIFT et al. v. SOUTHERN RY. CO. et al.

123 F. 789

TIFT et al.
v.
SOUTHERN RY. CO. et al.

United States Circuit Court, S.D. Georgia, Western Division.

July 16, 1903


Syllabus by the Court.

By the common law a common carrier was obliged to carry for all without unjust or unreasonable discrimination either in charges or in the facilities for actual transportation.

The act to regulate interstate commerce (Act Feb. 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3154), in so far as it inhibits carriers from the imposition of unjust or unreasonable rates, is an express adoption by the national legislature of the principles of the common law on this topic.

The special remedies afforded by this enactment were intended to supplement, and not to supplant, the existing remedies. [123 F. 790]

The jurisdiction to enjoin unreasonable rates is based upon the fact that the subject-matter of the suit is a right asserted under the act of Congress.

It has long been the practice of courts of equity to grant injunction against extortionate charges and unjust discriminations in the business of common carriage.

When it appears that a large number of complainants have identical claims of right relative to the same subject-matter against a large number of defendants, public corporations, who are alleged to be in a combination to inflict on each and every complainant a common and simultaneous wrong, equity jurisdiction to avoid a multiplicity of suits will be maintained.

When a controversy between the parties relative to transportation rates is pending before the Interstate Commerce Commission, and no irreparable injury seems threatened, a court of equity, in advance of the action of the commission, will not ordinarily enjoin the enforcement of such rates.

W. D. Ellis, W. A. Wimbish, and J. F. Boatwright, for complainants.

Ed Baxter, J. J. Spalding, W. E. Kay, A. S. Erwin, E. T. Brown, and W. P. Hill, for respondents.

SPEER, District Judge.

This suit was brought by a large number of parties who are engaged in the manufacture of Georgia pine lumber. They term themselves members of the Georgia Sawmill Association. They sue as members of that association, and also in their separate or individual capacities. The suit is brought against the Southeastern Freight Association and against a number of railroads who are members thereof. Its purpose is to enjoin the defendants from enforcing an increase of two cents a hundred pounds in the freight rate on yellow pine lumber shipped from points in Georgia to Chattanooga and to Ohio river points and beyond. All of the complainants will be directly affected by the increased rate. All of the railway companies who are defendants, and the Southeastern Freight Association, which represents them all, have a direct interest in the result of the litigation.

It is alleged that the members of the Georgia Sawmill Association have values invested in their business of about $10,000,000. The value of the annual output is estimated at $7,000,000, and of this output a proportion amounting to not less than $2,500,000 in value is annually shipped to the Western points which will be affected by the proposed increase in rates. It is estimated that the increase of two cents a hundred pounds will amount to an aggregate of from $180,000 to $200,000 per annum in freight charges. It is alleged that this increase of rates is not only unjust and unreasonable, but [123 F. 791] will be destructive of the business of complainants in the Western market which they now supply with the product of their mills. Generally speaking, they insist that with the large additional burden imposed by the increase they will be unable to compete with dealers in fir, cedar, and the like, shipped to the same territory from the Pacific Slope. The increase is alleged to be so unreasonable as to violate the principles of the common law controlling the business of common carriers, which forbid unreasonable charges, and also violative of section 1 of the interstate commerce act (Act Feb. 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3154). It is charged to be the result of a combination and concerted action on the part of the defendant carriers, acting through the Southeastern Freight Association, which is alleged to be an irresponsible medium. This association is also charged to be an illegal combination or conspiracy in restraint of interstate trade, and in violation of the Sherman anti-trust act (Act July 2, 1890, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3200)). The bill prays that the defendants be enjoined from putting into effect the proposed increased rate, and also that existing rates be declared unjust and unreasonable in so far as they discriminate against yellow pine lumber in favor of other products, or against Georgia points in favor of other localities, and also in so far as they impose upon the complainants the burden of equipping cars at the expense of the shipper; that the Southeastern Freight Association be declared an illegal combination in restraint of interstate trade, and that the defendants be enjoined from continuing such illegal combination through that association in so far as concerns the rights and interests of the complainants.

A temporary injunction having been originally granted, and a rule nisi issued for the defendants to show cause why it should not be made permanent, a full hearing was had on the response to that rule. Demurrers to the bill for want of jurisdiction in the court as a court of equity and as a court of the United States were argued as a part of the hearing, and were overruled. The court maintained its jurisdiction to grant the relief sought in case it should be made to appear that the contention of complainants was meritorious.

The considerations submitted on the present hearing against this finding have not had the effect to change the opinion of the court as to the correctness of its conclusion. It has been from time immemorial a basic obligation of a common carrier to receive and transport all goods offered upon receiving reasonable compensation. It follows that unreasonable charges for common carriage may not be lawfully enforced. The difference in the obligation of a common carrier and that of a private individual is that the former has undertaken a duty to the public. Having undertaken that duty, it was settled by the common law that the common carrier must carry for all, to the extent of his capacity, without unjust or unreasonable discrimination either in charges or in the facilities for actual transportation. Atchison, etc., R. Co. v. Denver, etc., R.R. Co., 110 U.S. 667, 4 Sup.Ct. 185, 28 L.Ed. 291; Interstate Commerce Com. v. Cincinnati, etc., R. Co., 167 U.S. 479, 17 Sup.Ct. 896, 42 L.Ed. 243. If this was true at common law, how much stronger is the obligation [123 F. 792] upon those vast public corporations of modern times, which, in consideration of valuable franchises granted by the public, are engaged in the stupendous business of transporting freight and passengers. So universal is the reliance of the public upon these instrumentalities of modern commerce that their operation is indispensable to the very existence of our modern social life. So fully is this recognized that the states have attempted their regulation through state railroad commissions, and the government of the United States, through the Interstate Commerce Commission, has sought to regulate the commerce between the states. This act of Congress, in so far as it inhibits carriers from the imposition of unjust and unreasonable rates, is an express adoption by the national legislature of the principles of the common law on this topic. 4 Thompson's Corporations, Sec. 5547. Said Mr. Justice Brewer for the Supreme Court in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati, etc., R. Co., 167 U.S. 479, 17 Sup.Ct. 896, 42 L.Ed. 243 (after stating that there were three courses open to Congress in regard to abuses of railroad companies in regard to interstate transportation):

'Congress might itself prescribe the rates; or it might commit to some subordinate tribunal this duty; or it might leave with the companies the right to fix rates, subject to regulations and restrictions, as well as to that rule which is as old as the
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16 practice notes
  • State Board of Equalization v. Stanolind Oil & Gas Company, 2116
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 1939
    ...Railway Acts will be adopted. Texas Ry. v. Interstate Comm., 40 L.Ed. 940; U. S. v. Handley (Ill.) 71 F. 672; Tift v. So. Ry. Co. (Ga.) 123 F. 789. A sales tax is chargeable against Stanolind Oil Company on a reasonable charge for transportation, even though no money was paid. Meishke-Smith......
  • McGoon v. Northern Pac. Ry. Co. Cook
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of North Dakota
    • May 14, 1913
    ...Interstate Commerce Act are suits arising under that act in such a way as to confer federal jurisdiction. Tift v. Southern Ry. Co. (C.C.) 123 F. 789; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Pacific, etc., Ass'n, 165 F. 1, 91 C.C.A. 39; Toledo, A.A. & N.M. Ry. Co. v. Pennsylvania Co. (C.C.) 54 F. 73......
  • Northern Pac. Ry. Co. v. Pacific Coast Lumber Mfrs.' Ass'n, 1,520.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 5, 1908
    ...Circuit, affirming the decree of the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Tift et al. v. Southern Railway et al. (C.C.) 123 F. 789, 138 F. 753. An original bill had been filed by Tift and others to enjoin an advance in freight rates which was to be made effective shortly th......
  • Gamble-Robinson Com'n Co. v. Chicago & N.W. Ry. Co., 2,712.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 22, 1909
    ...United States v. Vacuum Oil Co. (D.C.) 153 F. 598, 606, 607; Hays v. Pennsylvania Co. (C.C.) 12 F. 309; Tift v. Southern Railway Co. (C.C.) 123 F. 789, 791; Scofield et al. v. Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Ry. Co., 2 Interst.Com.R. 67; Daniels v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • State Board of Equalization v. Stanolind Oil & Gas Company, 2116
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 1939
    ...Railway Acts will be adopted. Texas Ry. v. Interstate Comm., 40 L.Ed. 940; U. S. v. Handley (Ill.) 71 F. 672; Tift v. So. Ry. Co. (Ga.) 123 F. 789. A sales tax is chargeable against Stanolind Oil Company on a reasonable charge for transportation, even though no money was paid. Meishke-Smith......
  • McGoon v. Northern Pac. Ry. Co. Cook
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of North Dakota
    • May 14, 1913
    ...Interstate Commerce Act are suits arising under that act in such a way as to confer federal jurisdiction. Tift v. Southern Ry. Co. (C.C.) 123 F. 789; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Pacific, etc., Ass'n, 165 F. 1, 91 C.C.A. 39; Toledo, A.A. & N.M. Ry. Co. v. Pennsylvania Co. (C.C.) 54 F. 73......
  • Northern Pac. Ry. Co. v. Pacific Coast Lumber Mfrs.' Ass'n, 1,520.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 5, 1908
    ...Circuit, affirming the decree of the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Tift et al. v. Southern Railway et al. (C.C.) 123 F. 789, 138 F. 753. An original bill had been filed by Tift and others to enjoin an advance in freight rates which was to be made effective shortly th......
  • Gamble-Robinson Com'n Co. v. Chicago & N.W. Ry. Co., 2,712.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 22, 1909
    ...United States v. Vacuum Oil Co. (D.C.) 153 F. 598, 606, 607; Hays v. Pennsylvania Co. (C.C.) 12 F. 309; Tift v. Southern Railway Co. (C.C.) 123 F. 789, 791; Scofield et al. v. Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Ry. Co., 2 Interst.Com.R. 67; Daniels v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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