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GULF, C & S F R. CO. v. STATE OF TEXAS, 204 U.S. 403 (1907)

U.S. Supreme Court

GULF, C & S F R. CO. v. STATE OF TEXAS, 204 U.S. 403 (1907)

204 U.S. 403


No. 2.
Argued October 11, 1906.
Decided February 25, 1907.

[204 U.S. 403, 404]   In the district court of Tarrant county, Texas, on July 28 ,1902, the state of Texas recovered a judgment against the Gulf, Colorado, & Santa F e Railway Company for $100 as a penalty for extortion in a charge for the transportation of a car load of corn from Texarkana, Texas, to Goldthwaite, Texas. This judgment was sustained by both the court of civil appeals (32 Tex. Civ. App. 1, 73 S. W. 429) and the supreme court of the state. 97 Tex. 274, 78 S. W. 495. Thereupon the railway company brought the case here on a writ of error.

The case was tried in the district court without a jury. Findings of fact were made, which were sustained by the appellate courts. From them it appears that on January 13, 1902, the Texas & Pacific Railway Company, which owns and operates a railroad from Texarkana, Texas, to Fort Worth, Texas, executed a bill of lading by which it acknowledged the receipt from the Samuel Hardin Grain Company at Texarkana, Texas, of one car of sacked corn consigned to shippers, with orders to deliver to Saylor & Burnett, at Goldthwaite, Texas. This car of corn was transported by the Texas & Pacific Railway Company to Fort Worth, there delivered to the defendant railway company, and by it transported to Goldthwaite, where it arrived on the 17th day of January, 1902. When it reached Goldthwaite, Saylor & Burnett, who were acting for the Samuel Hardin Grain Company, tendered the charges prescribed by the state railroad commission, which the agent declined to accept, and demanded and collected a larger sum. The following findings state the important facts upon which the controversy turns:

Messrs. Gardner Lathrop, A. B. Browne, and J. W. Terry for plaintiff in error. [204 U.S. 403, 409]   Mr. Robert Vance Davidson for defendant in error.

Statement by Mr. Justice Brewer:

[204 U.S. 403, 411]  

Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:

The single question in the case is whether, as between Texarkana and Goldthwaite, this was an interstate shipment. If so, the regulations of the state railroad commission do not control, and the court erred in enforcing the penalty. If, however, it was a purely local shipment, the judgment below was right and should be sustained.

The facts are settled by the special findings, those findings being conclusive upon this court. Dower v. Richards, 151 U.S. 658 , 38 L. ed. 305, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 452; Egan v. Hart, 165 U.S. 188 , 41 L. ed. 680, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 300; Thayer v. Spratt, 189 U.S. 346 , 47 L. ed. 845, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 576; Adams v. Church, 193 U.S. 510 , 48 L. ed. 769, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 512; Clipper Min. Co. v. Eli Min. & Land Co. 194 U.S. 220 , 48 L. ed. 944, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 632.

The corn was carried from Texarkana, Texas, to Goldthwaite, Texas, upon a bill of lading which, upon its face, showed only a local transportation. It is, however, contended by the railway company, that this local transportation was a continuation of a shipment from Hudson, South Dakota, to Texarkana, Texas; that the place from which the corn started was Hudson, South Dakota, and the place at which the transportation ended was Goldthwaite, Texas; that such transportation was interstate commerce, and that its interstate character was not [204 U.S. 403, 412]   affected by the various changes of title or issues of bills of lading intermediate its departure from Hudson and its arrival at Goldthwaite.

It is undoubtedly true that the character of a shipment, whether local or interstate, is not changed by a transfer of title during the transportation. But whether it be one or the other may depend on the contract of shipment. The rights and obligations of carriers and shippers are reciprocal. The first contract of shipment in this case was from Hudson to Texarkana. During that transportation a contract was made at Kansas City for the sale of the corn, but that did not affect the character of the shipment from Hudson to Texarkana. It was an interstate shipment after the contract of sale as well as before. In other words, the transportation which was contracted for, and which was not changed by any act of the parties, was transportation of the corn from Hudson to Texarkana,-that is, an interstate shipment. The control over goods in process of transportation, which may be repeatedly changed by sales, is one thing; the transportation is another thing, and follows the contract of shipment, until that is changed by the agreement of owner and carrier. Neither the Harroun nor the Hardin company changed or offered to change the contract of shipment or the place of delivery. The Hardin company accepted the contract of shipment theretofore made, and purchased the corn to be delivered at Texarkana,-that is, on the completion of the existing contract. When the Hardin company accepted the corn at Texarkana the transportation contracted for ended. The carrier was under no obligations to carry it further. It transferred the corn, in obedience to the demands of the owner, to the Texas & Pacific Railway Company, to be delivered by it, under its contract with such owner. Whatever obligations may rest upon the carrier at the terminus of its transportation to deliver to some further carrier, in obedience to the instructions of the owner, it is acting not as carrier, but simply as a forwarder. No new arrangement having been made for transportation, the corn [204 U.S. 403, 413]   was delivered to the Hardin company at Texarkana. Whatever may have been the thought or purpose of the Hardin company in respect to the further disposition of the corn was a matter immaterial so far as the completed transportation was concerned.

In this respect there is no difference between an interstate passenger and an interstate transportation. If Hardin, for instance, had purchased at Hudson a ticket for interstate carriage to Texarkana, intending all the while after he reached Texarkana to go on to Goldthwaite, he would not be entitled, on his arrival at Texarkana, to a new ticket from Texarkana to Goldthwaite at the proportionate fraction of the rate prescribed by the Interstate Commerce Commission for carriage from Hudson to Goldthwaite. The one contract of the railroad companies having been finished, he must make a new contract for his carriage to Goldthwaite, and that would be subject to the law of the state within which that carriage was to be made.

The question may be looked at from another point of view. Supposing a car load of goods was shipped from Goldthwaite to Texarkana under a bill of lading calling for only that transportation, and supposing that the laws of Texas required, subject to penalty, that such goods should be carried in a particular kind of car,-can there by any doubt that the carrier would be subject to the penalty, although it should appear that the shipper intended, after the goods had reached Texarkana, to forward them to some other place outside the state? To state the question in other words,-if the only contract of shipment was for local transportation, would the state law in respect to the mode of transportation be set one side by a Federal law in respect to interstate transportation, on the ground that the shipper intended, after the one contract of shipment had been completed, to forward the goods to some place outside the state? Coe v. Errol, 116 U.S. 517 -527, 29 L. ed. 715-718, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 475.

Again, it appeared that this corn remained five days in Texarkana. The Hardin company was under no obligation to [204 U.S. 403, 414]   ship it further. It could, in any other way it saw fit, have provided corn for delivery to Saylor & Burnett, and unloaded and used that car of corn in Texarkana. It must be remembered that the corn was not paid for by the Hardin company until its receipt in Texarkana. It was paid for on receipt and delivery to the Hardin company. Then, and not till then, did the Hardin company have full title to and control of the corn, and that was after the first contract of transportation had been completed.

It must further be remembered that no bill of lading was issued from Texarkana to Goldthwaite until after the arrival of the corn at Texarkana, the completion of the first contract for transportation, the acceptance and payment by the Hardin company. In many cases it would work the grossest injustice to a carrier if it could not rely on the contract of shipment it has made, know whether it was bound to obey the state or Federal law, or, obeying the former, find itself mulcted in penalties for not obeying the law of the other jurisdiction, simply because the shipper intended a transportation beyond that specified in the contract. It must be remembered that there is no presumption that a transportation when commenced is to be continued beyond the state limits, and the carrier ought to be able to depend upon the contract which it has made, and must conform to the liability imposed by that contract.

We see no error in the proceedings, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Texas is affirmed.

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