115 U.S. 587 (1885)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided December 7, 1885.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Edward S. Isham for appellant.

Mr. John F. Dillon and Mr. A.T. Britton for appellees.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court. After stating the facts in the language reported above, he continued:

The main questions involved in the merits of this case are, 1, whether the contract between the Missouri Pacific and Pullman Companies, made before the consolidation, binds the consolidated company to haul the Pullman cars over the road of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company, if that road is controlled by the consolidated company within the meaning of the contract; and, 2, whether it is so controlled by the consolidated company.

The present Missouri Pacific Company is a different corporation from that which contracted with the Pullman Company. The original company owned and operated a railroad between St. Louis and Kansas City. This company owns and operates that road and others besides. It is a new corporation created by the dissolution of several old ones, and the establishment of this in their place. It has new powers, new franchises, and new stockholders. Clearwater v. Meredith, 1 Wall. 25, 42; Shields v. Ohio, 95 U.S. 319, 323; Railroad Co. v. Maine, 96 U.S. 499, 508; Railroad Co. v. Georgia, 98 U.S. 359, 364; Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. v. Palmes, 109 U.S. 244, 254. The bill does indeed aver that the Missouri Pacific Company "consolidated with itself certain other companies, ... retaining its former name," but, as this was done under the laws of Missouri, the effect of the consolidation depends on those laws. Central Railroad Co. v. Georgia, 92 U.S. 665, 670. They provide that "any two or more railroad companies in this State, existing under either general or special laws, and owning railroads constructed wholly or in part, which, when completed and connected, will form, in the whole or in the main, one continuous line of railroad, are hereby authorized to consolidate in the whole or in the main, and form one company owning and controlling such continuous line of road, with all the powers, rights, privileges and immunities, and subject to all the obligations and liabilities to the State, or otherwise, which belong to or rested upon either of the companies making such consolidation." In order to accomplish such consolidation an agreement to that effect must be entered into by the companies interested. "A certified copy of such articles of agreement, with the corporate name to be assumed by the new company, shall be filed with the secretary of state when the consolidation shall be considered duly consummated, and a certified copy from the office of the secretary of state shall be deemed conclusive evidence thereof." "The board of directors of the several companies may then proceed to carry out such contract according to its provisions, calling in the certificates of stock then outstanding in the several companies or roads, and issuing certificates of stock in the new consolidated company under such corporate name as may have been adopted." Rev. Stat. Missouri 1879, § 789. This clearly contemplates the actual dissolution of the old corporations and the creation of a new one to take their place.

The new company assumed on the consolidation all the obligations of the old Missouri Pacific. This requires it to haul the Pullman cars, under the contract, on all roads owned or controlled by the old company at the time of the consolidation, but it does not extend the operation of the contract to other roads which the new company may afterwards acquire. The power of the old company to get the control of other roads ceased when its corporate existence came to an end, and the new company into which its capital stock was merged by the consolidation undertook only to assume its obligations as they then stood. It did not bind itself to run the cars of the Pullman Company on all the roads it might from time to time itself control, but only on such as were controlled by the old Missouri Pacific. Contracts thereafter made to get the control of other roads would be the contracts of the new consolidated company, and not of those on the dissolution of which that company came into existence. It follows that the present Missouri Pacific Company is not required, by the contract of the old company, to haul the Pullman cars on the road of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company, even if it does now control that road, within the meaning of the contract.

We are also of opinion that the railroad of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company is not controlled by the present Missouri Pacific Company in such a way as to require that company to haul the Pullman cars over it, if the contract is binding on the new company to the same extent it would be on the old were that company still in existence and standing in the place of the new. Confessedly the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company keeps up its own corporate organization. It operates its own road. It has its own officers and makes its own bargains. The Missouri Pacific owns all, or nearly all, its stock, and in that way can determine who shall constitute its board of directors, but there the power of that company over the management stops. The board when elected has controlling authority, and for its doings is not necessarily answerable to the Missouri Pacific Company. The two roads are substantially owned by the same persons and operated in the same interest, but that of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company is in no legal sense controlled by the Missouri Pacific.

It is true the bill avers in many places and in many ways that the purchase of the stock of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company was made by the Missouri Pacific Company for the purpose and with the intent of getting the control of the road of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern, and that the case is before us on demurrer to the bill. A demurrer admits all facts stated in the bill which are well pleaded, but not necessarily all statements of conclusions of law. What was actually done is stated clearly and distinctly. The effect of what was done is a question of law, not of fact. It is a matter of no importance what the purpose of the parties was if what they did was not sufficient in law to accomplish what they wanted. When there is doubt, the purpose and intention of the parties may sometimes aid in explaining what was done, but here there is no need of explanation. The Missouri Pacific Company has bought the stock of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Company, and has effected a satisfactory election of directors, but this is all. It has all the advantages of a control of the road, but that is not in law the control itself. Practically it may control the company, but the company alone controls its road. In a sense, the stockholders of a corporation own its property, but they are not the managers of its business or in the immediate control of its affairs. Ordinarily they elect the governing body of the corporation, and that body controls its property. Such is the case here. The Missouri Pacific Company owns enough of the stock of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern to control the election of directors, and this it has done. The directors now control the road through their own agents and executive officers, and these agents and officers are in no way under the direction of the Missouri Pacific Company. If they or the directors act contrary to the wishes of the Missouri Pacific Company, that company has no power to prevent it, except by the election, at the proper time and in the proper way, of other directors, or by some judicial proceeding for the protection of its interest as a stockholder. Its rights and its powers are those of a stockholder only. It is not the corporation, in the sense of that term as applied to the management of the corporate business or the control of the corporate property.

Something was intimated in argument about the duty of the railway company to haul the cars of the Pullman Company, because of the nature of the business in which the latter company was engaged, which consisted "of hiring or otherwise arranging with railway companies to use its cars," "under written contracts, for a term of years." The bill also alleges that, "by reason of the magnitude of the investment" "and the cost of operating such cars," the Pullman Company "cannot receive a fair return unless it can have the exclusive operation of said business, as provided in said contracts with the several companies over whose roads it operates." It may be, as is also alleged, that it has "become indispensable, in the conduct of the business of a railroad company, to run on passenger trains sleeping and drawing-room cars, with the conveniences usually afforded by such cars for night travel," but it by no means follows that the railway is, in law, obliged to arrange with the Pullman Company for such accommodations. According to the bill itself, two such car companies cannot successfully carry on a competing business on the same road, and the custom has been for the Pullman Company, if possible, to contract for the exclusive right. The business is always done under special written contracts. These contracts must necessarily vary, according to the special circumstances of each particular case. Certainly, it cannot be claimed that a court of chancery is competent to require these companies to enter into such a contract for the furnishing and hauling of Pullman cars, as the court may deem reasonable. A mere statement of the proposition is sufficient to show that it is untenable.

An objection was raised to the jurisdiction of a court of equity to grant relief such as is asked. This we do not consider, as we are all agreed that the demurrer was properly sustained upon the other grounds.

Decree affirmed.


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