« PreviousContinue »
Argument for Plaintiff in Error.
in error had failed to comply with the conditions of the statute, and that it was therefore liable for the amount of the damage sustained by the petitioners on whatsoever road the damage actually occurred.
Mr. John I. Hall, with whom Mr. Henry C. Cunningham, Mr. Lloyd Cleveland and Mr. Robert L. Berner were on the brief, for plaintiff in error:
Section 2317 of the Civil Code of Georgia imposes a burden upon the carrier and interferes with its full freedom to contract with shippers with respect to confining its liability to its own line and is void when applied to interstate commerce. Under the Constitution any person, natural or artificial, may engage in interstate commerce. Vance v. Vandercook Co., 170 U. S. 438, 455. The freedom of interstate commerce cannot be affected by state legislation. Welton v. Missouri, 91 U. S. 282; Hall v. De Cuir, 95 U. S. 485; Wabash v. Illinois, 118 U. S. 558; Railroad Co. v. Husen, 95 U. S. 465, 472; W. U. Tel. Co. v. Pendleton, 122 U. S. 347; Fargo v. Michigan, 121 U. S. 230; Richmond R. R. Co. v. Tobacco Co., 24 S. E. Rep. 261, distinguished, and see S. C., 169 U. S. 311. Under $ 2276, Civil Code of Georgia, 1895, a carrier may by express contract limit its liability to its own line. Central R. R. Co. v. Avant, 80 Georgia, 195; Richmond & Danville v. Shomo, 90 Georgia, 496. The requirements of the statute involved are unreasonable and as such interfere with interstate commerce and are void. C., C. & St. L. R. R. v. Illinois, 176 U. S. 514, and cases cited.
The statute fixes a liability on the carrier without due process of law. Wallace v. Railway Co., 94 Georgia, 732. An act of legislature which arbitrarily makes one person liable for the debts or responsible for the acts of another would deprive him of due process of law. Camp v. Rogers, 44 Connecticut, 291; Colon v. Lisk, 47 N. E. Rep. (N. Y.) 302; People v. O'Brien, 18 N. E. Rep. (N. Y.) 692; Towle v. H. Mann, 53 Iowa, 42; Ohio R. R. Co. v. Lackey, 78 Illinois, 55; Beilenberg v. Railway Co., 20 Pac. Rep. 314. Nor does the statute permit any defense.
196 U. S.
Argument for Defendants in Error.
Mr. W. W. Lambdin, with whom Mr. Hoke Smith was on the brief, for defendants in error.
Doubts are always resolved in favor of the constitutionality of the statute. The violation must be clear and palpable in order for the statute to be held unconstitutional. Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 6th ed., 216; Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213, 270; Munn v. Illinois, 94 l'. S. 113, 125; Cooper v. Telfair, 4 Dall. 14, 19; Plumley v. Massachusetts, 155 U. S. 461, 479; Cary v. Giles, 9 Georgia, 253, 258.
Under the facts in this case, the shipment of grapes was damaged by the negligence of one of the carriers, which handled the shipment. Central &c. Ry. Co. v. Murphey, 113 Georgia, 514, 520.
The initial carrier having failed to trace the freight and give to the shipper the required information, it became "liable for the value of the freight lost, damaged or destroyed in the same manner, and to the same extent as if said loss, damage or destruction occurred on its own line." The law under the facts in this case imputes the negligence to the defendant company, and makes the same, in effect, its negligence. Code of Georgia of 1895, $ 2318; case below, 113 Georgia, 514, 520.
This statute was before the state court in Southern Ry. Co. v. Ragsdale, 119 Georgia, 773, and the ruling made in this case was adhered to. A strong intimation was given in this last case to the effect that if the railroad company should prove that it was impossible for it to trace the freight and give the required information within the time provided, such would be a defense to the action. In the case at bar, however, the court held affirmatively that the facts offered in evidence by the defendant were not sufficient to make out such a defense.
A railroad company is not compelled to make a contract to forward goods beyond its own line. Coles v. Railroad Co., 86 Georgia, 251; A., T. &c. R. R. Co. v. Railroad Co., 110 U. S. 668, 680. But when it receives goods consigned to a point beyond its own line, it undertakes to transport them to their destination, and if the goods are lost or damaged, it will be
Argument for Defendants in Error.
196 U. S.
liable therefor, in the absence of a contract otherwise limiting its liability. Falvey v. Railroad Co., 76 Georgia, 597; Hutchinson on Carriers, 2d ed., $$ 145, 152. However, it may by express contract, limit its liability to its own line. Central Ry. Co. v. Avant, 80 Georgia, 195; R. & D. R: R. Co. v. Shomo, 90 Georgia, 500.
Such being the state of the law in Georgia, and the shipper not being able to hold the carrier with which he dealt liable, on account of the limitations which were put in the contracts of shipment in pursuance of the decisions cited supra and the shipper not being able to discover how or where his goods were damaged, and being thus entirely helpless in the premises, all the avenues of information being closed to him—the legislature of Georgia came to his relief and gave him a remedy by enacting the statute under consideration.
The contract under which the goods were shipped in this case was made in Georgia, and is governed by the laws of that State. Liverpool &c. Co. v. Insurance Co., 129 U. S. 397.
The defendant railroad company “being affected with a public interest,” and being a Georgia corporation, and being clothed with special privileges, is therefore subject to legislative control in the interest of the public. Munn v. Illinois, 94. U. S. 113; Gå. R. R. Co. v. Smith, 128 U. S. 174; Chicago &c. Ry.,Co. v. Pullman Car Co., 139 U. S. 79, 90; Smyth v. Ames, 169 U. S. 466, 544.
The statute does not violate the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution, nor does it attempt to regulate interstate commerce. States may, in the exercise of their reserved powers, enact laws which, though they incidentally relate to and affect commerce between the States, yet are not to be considered as regulations of that commerce within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States. Sherlock v. Alling, 93 U. S. 99, 103; Peik v. Chicago &c., Ry. Co. et al., 94 U. S. 164; Bagg v. Wilmington &o. Ry.Co., 109 N. Car. 279; Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U. S. 1, 16; Fry v. State, 63 Indiana, 552; Williams v. Fears, 179: U. S. 270; S. C., affirming 110 Georgia, 584; Smith v. Ala
196 U. S.
Argument for Defendants in Error.
bama, 124 U. S. 465; Nashville &c. Ry. Co. v. Alabama, 128 U.S. 96, 100; Missouri &c. Ry. Co. v. Haber, 169 U. S. 613, 626; New York &c. R. R. Co. v. New York, 165 U. S. 628; Richmond &c. R. R. Co. v. Patterson Tobacco Co., 169 U.S. 311, affirming S. C., 24 S. E. Rep. (Va.) 261; St. Joseph &c. R. R. Co. v. Palmer (Neb.), 22 L. R. A. 335; Hart v. Railway Co., 69 Iowa, 485; McCann v. Eddy, 133 Missouri, 59; Missouri &c. Ry. Co. v. McCann, 174 U. S. 580.
The statute in question comports with sound public policy and with responsibility placed upon carriers by the common law and the statutes and decisions of the various States and of the United States. The shipper and the carrier are on an unequal footing, and the carrier is therefore held to rigid responsibility. Code of Georgia of 1895, $ 2264; Central Ry. Co. v. Hasselhus, 91 Georgia, 382; Penn. R. R. Co. v. Hughes, 191 U. S. 477, 489; Balt. & Ohio R. R. Co. v. Voigt, 176 U. S. 498, 505; New York &c. R. R. Co. v. Lockwood, 17 Wall. 357; Bank of Ky. V. Adams Ex. Co., 93 U. S. 174; Railway Co. v. Stevens, 95 U. S. 655; Missouri &c. R. R. Co. v. McCann, 174 U. S. 580; Brockway v. Express Co., 168 Massachusetts, 257; Ohio &c. Ry. Co. v. Tabor, 98 Kentucky, 503; Cent. R. R. Co. v. Lippman, 110 Georgia, 665.
The United States Supreme Court will generally adopt the construction placed upon a statute of a State by the court of last resort of such State. Sioux City Trust Co. v. Trust Co., 172 U. S. 642; Postal Tel. Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U. S. 688; Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U. S. 519; Railroad Tax Cases, 92 U. S. 575.
The statute under consideration facilitates the safe transportation of goods, and is therefore constitutional. Chicago &c. Ry. Co. v. Solan, 169 U. S. 133.
The regulation of the enjoyment of the relative rights and performance of the duties of all persons within the jurisdiction of a State, belongs primarily to such State under its reserved power to provide for the safety of all persons and property within its limits. Missouri &c. Ry. Co. v. Haber, 169 U. S. 613,
635; Lake Shore &c. Ry. Co. v. Ohio, 173 U. S. 299, citing 7 Cush. 53, 85; Cooley's Const. Lim., 6th ed., 715.
Plaintiff in error's contention that the statute deprives it of its property without due process of law, is not well taken. The railroad company was duly served with notice and process and has had its day in court. Chicago &c. Ry. Co. v. Zernicke, 183 U. S. 582, 587; Missouri Ry. Co. v. Mackey, 127 U. S. 205; Minneapolis &c. Ry. Co. v. Herrick, 127 U. S. 210; Mo: Pac. Ry. Co. v. Humes, 115 U. S. 512; Walker v. Sauvinet, 92 U. S. 90; St. Louis &e. Ry. Co. v. Mathews, 165 U. S. 1; Jones v. Brim, 165 U. S. 180.
MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
The Supreme Court of Georgia has held in this case that the statute applies to shipments of freight destined to points outside, as well as to those inside the State, and we must accept that construction of the state statute. The question for us to decide is whether the statute, when applied to an interstate shipment of freight, is an interference with or a regulation of interstate commerce, and therefore void.
We think the imposition upon the initial or any connecting carrier, or the duty of tracing the freight and informing the shipper, in writing, when, where, how and by which carrier the freight was lost, damaged or destroyed, and of giving the names of the parties and their official position, if any, by whom the truth of the facts set out in the information can be established, is, when applied to interstate commerce, a violation of the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution. The Supreme Court of Georgia has held that a carrier has in that State the right to make a contract with the shipper, to limit its liability as a carrier to damage or loss occurring on its own line. Central Railroad Co. v. Avant, 80 Georgia, 195; Richmond & Danville Railroad Co. v. Shomo, 90 Georgia, 496.
Whether the State would have the right to prohibit such a