Young v. Maine Cent. R. Co.

Decision Date27 February 1915
Citation113 Me. 113,93 A. 48
CourtMaine Supreme Court

Report from Supreme Judicial Court, Cumberland County, at Law.

Action by Harry G. Young against the Maine Central Railroad Company. Case reported. Case to stand for trial.


Clarence E. Sawyer, of Portland, for plaintiff. Symonds, Snow, Cook & Hutchinson, of Portland, for defendant.

PHILBROOK, J. This case comes to us on report, the defendant having offered no testimony, with the stipulation that, if the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon the evidence offered by him, the case is to stand for trial; otherwise this court is to direct judgment for defendant.

In the latter part of November, 1910, the plaintiff desired to ship a car load of potatoes from Hillside, a station on defendant's road, to Summit, in the state of New Jersey. He applied to defendant's yardmaster at Brunswick for a refrigerator car, or a double-lined car. The yardmaster replied to the applicant, "I can't give you one, but. I am going to give you a good car." The plaintiff said, "I will get paper and line it," and he testified to the manner in which he fastened building paper to the floor and sides of the car, loaded the potatoes, and fastened the doors by means of wooden cleats. The freight agent's office of the defendant at Brunswick furnished the plaintiff with a red card, which was by him attached to the car. Proper blank spaces upon the card were filled by the plaintiff in his own handwriting, showing the initials and number on the car, the station of departure, the destination, the route, "Via Deering Jct.," and the date of loading, "Nov. 26, 1910." Upon the card when received by plaintiff there were printed in large type the words, "Perishable freight"; in smaller type, "This car must not be delayed"; and in still smaller type, "Should car break down conductor must notify superintendent by telegraph giving full particulars." The bill of lading, signed by the plaintiff as well as by defendant's agent, contained the words, "Owner's risk freezing," written across its face.

On Saturday, November 26th, the car was shipped; but, as the defendant had no facilities for weighing at Deering Junction, it was taken to Portland. According to a letter from the defendant's general freight agent the car arrived in Portland November 26th, but was held there, and not delivered to the Boston & Maine Railroad for forwarding until November 30th. The delay, according to the letter, "was on account of temporary disability caused by the extension and improvement of the terminal facilities here at Portland." The car reached its destination December 6th, when it was discovered that the potatoes had been spoiled by freezing while en route.

By agreement of counsel a table of figures was introduced in testimony showing the minimum temperature at points along the route from that of shipment to that of destination, and from the date of shipment to the date of arrival. This shows that severely cold weather prevailed during the last days on which the potatoes were being transported, while warmer weather prevailed on the earlier days. The plaintiff claims that if the transportation had been without delay the cold weather would have been avoided and the potatoes would not have been destroyed by freezing.

It is claimed by the defendant that by the terms of the contract between it and the plaintiff, evidenced by the bill of lading already referred to, the plaintiff assumed all risk of damages resulting from the freezing of the potatoes. No principle of law is now more firmly established than that a common carrier, in the absence of any statute to the contrary, may by special contract limit its liability, at least against all risks but its own negligence or misconduct. Hix v. Eastern Steamship Company, 107 Me. 357, 78 Atl. 379. But a qualification of the carrier's right to restrict his common-law responsibility, almost as generally recognized as the right itself, and supported by innumerable authorities, is that a carrier cannot by speial and express contract exempt himself from liability for any negligence or misconduct of himself or his agents. 4 Ruling Case Law, § 232, and cases there cited; Sager v. Portsmouth etc., R. Co., 31 Me. 228, 50 Am. Dec. 659; Willis v. Grand Trunk Ry. Company, 62 Me. 488; Little v. Boston & Maine Railroad, 66 Me. 239.

The plaintiff therefore, while not denying his signature to the bill of lading whereon appear the words, "Owner's risk freezing," says that no contract between himself and the defendant can exempt the defendant from liability for any negligence or misconduct of itself or its agents. Thus the issue between the parties is squarely presented as to whether the defendant was guilty of any negligence or misconduct which caused the damage complained of by the plaintiff.

It is not denied that the car was detained at Portland from November 26th to November 30th. The excuse given by the defendant was the congested conditions of the terminal facilities consequent upon extensive improvements.

The duty of the defendant "was to exercise reasonable care and diligence in transportation, to transport in a reasonable time, without unnecessary delay, to prevent so far as is reasonable and practicable any loss or damage which may be occasioned by delays in transit. What is reasonable diligence in this class of cases, as in all others where reasonableness is the standard, must depend upon the circumstances of the particular case." Johnson v. New York, New Haven &...

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7 cases
  • Ritchie v. Oregon Short Line Railroad Co.
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • February 24, 1926
    ... ... McNear (D ... C.), 121 F. 428; In re 2098 Tons of Coal, 135 F. 317, ... 320; Young v. Maine Central R. Co., 113 Me. 113, 93 ... A. 449; Johnson v. New York, New Haven & H. R. Co., ... Louisville & N. R. Co., 129 Ky. 175, 130 ... Am. St. 429, 110 S.W. 820; Beard v. Illinois Cent. R ... Co., 79 Iowa 518, 18 Am. St. 381, 44 N.W. 800, 7 L. R ... A delay ... having ... ...
  • Sarkis Saliba v. New York Central Railroad Co.
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • January 8, 1929
    ... ... A. 737, 738; Johnson v. N.Y., N.H. & H. R. R ... Co. , 111 Me. 263, 88 A. 988, 990; Young v ... Maine Central R. R. Co. , 113, 93 A. 48, 49; ... Stevens v. Northern Cent. R. R. Co ... ...
  • Saliba v. N.Y. Cent. R. Co.
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • January 8, 1929
    ...Bangor & A. R. Co., 115 Me. 223, 98 A. 737, 738; Johnson v. New York, N. H. & H. R. R., Ill Me. 263, 88 A. 988, 990; Young v. Maine Central R. Co., 113 Me. 113, 93 A. 48, 49; Stevens v. Northern Cent. R. Co., 129 Md. 215, 98 A. 551, It is said in Parsons v. Hardy et al., 14 Wend. (N. Y.) 21......
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • January 12, 1927
    ...104 F. 728, affirmed, 186 U. S. 480, 22 S. Ct. 943, 46 L. Ed. 1259; St. Louis R. R. v. Wilson, 85 Ark. 257, 107 S. W. 978; Young v. R. R. Co., 113 Me. 113, 93 A. 48; Joynes v. Penn. R. R., 235 Pa. 232, 83 A. 1016, Ann. Cas. 1913D, 964; Spence v. Norfolk R. R., 92 Va. 102, 22 S. E. 815, 29 L......
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