Valley & Siletz R. Co. v. Thomas

Citation151 Or. 80,48 P.2d 358
PartiesVALLEY & SILETZ R. CO. v. THOMAS et al.
Decision Date30 July 1935
CourtSupreme Court of Oregon

In Banc.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Marion County; L. G. Lewelling, Judge.

Suit by the Valley & Siletz Railroad Company against Charles M Thomas, commissioner of public utilities, wherein the Charles K. Spaulding Logging Company intervened as a party defendant. Decree for defendants, and plaintiff appeals.


ROSSMAN J., dissenting.

James G. Wilson, of Portland (C. L. Starr and Wilson & Reilly, all of Portland, on the brief), for appellant.

I. H Van Winkle, Atty Gen., and Willis S. Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen for respondent Charles M. Thomas.

William P. Ellis, of Salem, and Wallace McCamant, of Portland (William P. Ellis, of Salem, and McCamant, Thompson & King, of Portland, on the brief), for respondent Charles K. Spaulding Logging Co.

BAILEY, Justice.

This suit was instituted in the circuit court of Marion county Or., by Valley & Siletz Railroad Company against the public utilities commissioner of Oregon, to set aside an order previously made by that officer fixing the maximum carload rate on log shipments from Olson, on the Valley & Siletz line in Polk county, to Winona, on a branch line of the Southern Pacific Company in the same county. The order of the commissioner also prescribed other rates on carload shipment of logs between points on the Valley & Siletz line. The Charles K. Spaulding Logging Company, a corporation, hereinafter to be referred to as the Spaulding Company, was permitted to intervene as a party defendant.

On December 13, 1932, the Spaulding Company filed a complaint with the commissioner, naming the Valley & Siletz Railroad Company and the Southern Pacific Company as defendants, alleging that the joint rates of $3.90 per thousand feet, board measure, on logs between Olson and Winona were unreasonable and unjust. After an extensive hearing, the commissioner on May 17, 1933, entered an order, in which, after referring to the testimony introduced, he made the following finding:

"From a careful consideration of the entire record in this proceeding and based thereon, I am of the opinion and find:

"That the present joint-line haul rate of respondent carriers applicable to the transportation of carload shipments of saw-logs shipped from Olson and nearby shipping points located on the Valley & Siletz Railroad Company to Winona, Oregon, located on Southern Pacific Company's line, in so far as same exceeds the rates and charges hereinafter prescribed, is unjust and unreasonable. ***

"That just, reasonable and lawful rates and charges for the future, to be applied jointly and locally by defendant carriers for the transportation of carload shipments of saw-logs between points on their lines, shall not exceed the following: from Olson, Oregon, and nearby shipping points to Winona, Oregon, applicable to loads of fifteen or more carloads shipped at one time, based on the use of cars not exceeding forty-three feet in length, $18 per carload. Applicable to shipments in loads of less than fifteen carloads, $3 per thousand feet B. M., carload minimum six thousand feet B. M."

Upon the hearing before the circuit court, additional testimony was introduced and the matter was, pursuant to section 62-138, Oregon Code, 1930, resubmitted to the commissioner. After referring to the testimony introduced in the circuit court, the commissioner found that his former order should be revised by eliminating therefrom all rates except those applying to carload shipments of logs between Olson and Winona, and that such order should be further amended by providing "that a just, reasonable and lawful rate and charge for the future, to be applied jointly by defendant carriers for the transportation of carload shipments of saw-logs, based on the use of cars not exceeding forty-three feet in length, applicable to shipments of one or more carloads shipped at one time from Olson, Oregon, and nearby shipping points to Winona, Oregon, is and for the future shall be $20 per carload."

The circuit court entered a decree for the defendants, and the plaintiff has appealed.

Before discussing in detail the facts relating to the rates prescribed by the commissioner, we shall dispose of the first two assignments of error presented by the appellant in its brief.

It is first insisted that the order of the commissioner is void, on the ground that he did not make detailed and specific findings of fact relating to the matter before him, and that the failure to make such findings of fact invalidates his entire order. This contention is based on the wording of sections 62-125 and 62-134, Oregon Code 1930. The first of these sections, with reference to investigation of rates, provides that "if upon such investigation the rate or rates, fares, charges *** or any joint rate or rates *** or service complained of shall be found to be unreasonable," the public utilities commissioner "shall have power to fix and order substituted therefor such rate or rates" as he "shall have determined to be just and reasonable and which shall be charged, imposed and followed in the future."

Section 62-134, as far as material here, is as follows: "Whenever, upon an investigation made under the provisions of this act," the public utilities commissioner "shall find any existing rate or rates, fares, charges, or classifications, or any joint rate or rates *** affecting the transportation of *** property *** are unreasonable," he "shall determine and by order fix a reasonable rate, fare *** or joint rate to be imposed, observed, and followed in the future in lieu of that found to be unreasonable."

The commissioner is granted power to change existing rates only in the event that he finds such rates unreasonable. The law does not confer upon him legislative authority to require the substitution of other and different rates as in his discretion he may from time to time deem desirable. He is given authority to prescribe other and different rates only in such instances as he finds existing charges unreasonable.

The sections of the Code above referred to do not require the commissioner to make what commonly are considered findings of fact. They merely provide that in the event he finds certain rates to be unreasonable, it then becomes his duty to prescribe what are reasonable rates. In the order above mentioned he found definitely that certain rates were unreasonable and specified what would be reasonable rates.

In United States v. Baltimore & O. R. Company, 293 U.S. 454, 55 S.Ct. 268, 273, 79 L.Ed. 587, the court pointed out that an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission could not be supported where there was complete absence of the basic or essential findings required to give the commission jurisdiction of the matter. With further reference to this subject, the court there said: "In the Florida Case [Florida v. U.S., 282 U.S. 194, 51 S.Ct. 119, 75 L.Ed. 291] the legal distinction was pointed out between what may be termed quasijurisdictional findings, there held to be indispensable, and the 'complete statement of the grounds of the Commission's determination' which was declared in Beaumont, S. L. & W. R. Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 74, 86, 51 S.Ct. 1, 75 L.Ed. 221 [229], to be desirable for a proper consideration of the case in the courts. The lack of such a complete statement, while always regrettable, because unnecessarily increasing the labor of the reviewing court (compare Virginian R. Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 658, 675, 47 S.Ct. 222, 71 L.Ed. 463 [472]), is not fatal to the validity of the order. It is true that formal and precise findings are not required, under section 14 (1) of the Interstate Commerce Act (49 USCA § 14 (1), which declares that the report 'shall state the conclusions of the commission, together with its decision.' Compare Manufacturers' R. Co. v. United States, 246 U.S. 457, 487, 38 S.Ct. 383, 62 L.Ed. 831 [846]. Meeker v. Lehigh Valley R. Co., 236 U.S. 412, 428, 35 S.Ct. 328, 59 L.Ed. 644 [656], Ann. Cas. 1916B, 691, P. U. R. 1915D, 1072. That provision relieves the Commission from making comprehensive findings of fact similar to those required by Equity Rule 70 1/2 (28 USCA § 723). But section 14 (1) does not remove the necessity of making, where orders are subject to judicial review, quasi-jurisdictional findings essential to their constitutional or statutory validity."

In Wichita R. & Light Co. v. Public Utilities Commission, 260 U.S. 48, 43 S.Ct. 51, 67 L.Ed. 124, relied upon by the appellant herein, it was held that the order of the commission failed to find the existing rates to be unjust and unreasonable, and that the commission under the Kansas law had no power to substitute other rates unless it did so find. In support of this conclusion, the court cited State Public Utilities Commission v. Springfield Gas Company, 291 Ill. 209, 125 N.E. 891, 902. In the Illinois case, with reference to the duty of the regulatory body of that state, the court quoted from the Public Utilities Act as follows: "At the conclusion of such hearing the commission shall make and render findings concerning the subject-matter and facts inquired into, and enter its order based thereon."

It will readily be seen that the requirements of the Illinois act are more exacting, as to what the findings shall consist of, than those of the Oregon statute. Although the Illinois case was cited by the United States Supreme Court in Wichita R. & Light Co. v. Public Utilities Commission, supra, there is nothing in the opinion in the latter case from which it can be inferred that anything more is necessary than the quasi jurisdictional findings, that is, of the unreasonableness of existing rates.

Following the Illinois decision is the case...

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3 cases
  • Public Utilities Com'r of Or., In re
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oregon
    • March 31, 1954
    ...some disadvantage upon that class of freight although nominally standing willing to accept that. In Valley & Siletz R. Co. v. Thomas, 151 Or. 80, 48 P.2d 358, 370, it was 'The commissioner has a wide range of discretion in the exercise of the power to prescribe reasonable charges, and he is......
  • Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Wallace
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    • February 1, 1938
    ...upon St. Joseph Stockyards Co. v. United States, 298 U.S. 38 (80 L.Ed. 1033, 56 S.Ct. 720), and cites Valley & Siletz R.R. Co. v. Thomas, 151 Or. 80 (48 P. (2d) 358); Oregon-Washington R. & N. Co. v. Corey, 120 Or. 517 (252 P. 955); Hammond Lumber Co. v. Public Service Com., 96 Or. 595 (189......
  • Valley & Siletz R. Co. v. Flagg
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oregon
    • August 13, 1952
    ...Page 642 [195 Or. 688] plant. The appellant is a common carrier and its entire line is in this state. In Valley & Siletz R. Co. v. Thomas, 151 Or. 80, 95, 48 P.2d 358, 364, Mr. Justice Bailey gave a description of the Upon the Willamette river, at a point near Independence, is a log dump wh......

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