No. 473.

232 U.S. 508 (1914)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided February 24, 1914.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. E.C. Lindley and Mr. M.L. Countryman for plaintiff in error.

Mr. C.D. O'Brien, Mr. James Mattimore and Mr. T.P. McNamara for defendant in error.

MR. JUSTICE LAMAR, after making the foregoing statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff owned personal effects weighing 545 lbs. and worth $598. She employed the Boyd Transfer Company which was also a Forwarder to box and ship the property from Minneapolis to Portland. The regular freight rate on such a shipment would have been $3 per cwt., but without express authority from her, the Company forwarded her boxes with others under the terms of a tariff which named $1 as the rate on carload shipments of household goods valued at less than $10 per cwt. The car and its contents were destroyed and the state Supreme Court held that the plaintiff was entitled to recover the full value of her property because (1) the railroad agents must have known that the Transfer Company was a Forwarder, without authority to value plaintiff's property, and because (2) there had been no bona fide effort to agree upon a valuation.

1. It is conceded that the carrier had no knowledge of the contents of the boxes which were loaded by the Transfer Company and forwarded under the low rate applicable to household goods worth less than $10 per cwt. In the absence of something to indicate that the Transfer Company was guilty of false billing, the carrier was not required to make special inquiry, but could rely on the statement that the car was loaded with goods of the character and value stated. For, although the Boyd Company was a Forwarder, engaged in collecting a number of small shipments from various persons in order to fill a car and obtain the lower rates applicable to carload shipments, yet the Railroad Company was obliged to treat the Forwarder as shipper, even though thereby the carrier lost the benefit of the higher rate which would have been applicable to separate and small shipments. This was the ruling in Int. Com. Comm. v. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R.R., 220 U.S. 235, where it was held that the carriers were not concerned with the question of title, but must treat the Forwarder as shipper and charge the rates applicable to the quantity of freight tendered regardless of who owned the separate articles. If the Forwarder was shipper for the purpose of securing carload rates, it was also shipper for the purpose of classifying and valuing, in order to determine which tariff rate was applicable.

2. The plaintiff contended, however, that she had expected her goods to be transported as a separate consignment. But the Transfer Company had been entrusted with goods to be shipped by railway, and, nothing to the contrary appearing, the carrier had the right to assume that the Transfer Company could agree upon the terms of the shipment, some of which were embodied in the tariff. The carrier was not bound by her private instructions or limitation on the authority of the Transfer Company, whether it be treated as agent or Forwarder. If there was any undervaluation, wrongful classification or violation of her instructions, resulting in damage, the plaintiff has her remedy against that Company.

3. The plaintiff, however, claimed that, even if the Boyd Transfer Company is to be treated as her agent to agree upon the terms of shipment there had been no bona fide effort to agree on a valuation, and that she was therefore entitled to recover the full value of her goods. In order to meet this contention the defendant offered evidence to show that it had no knowledge of the contents of the boxes and was entitled to rely upon the entry on the bill of lading inasmuch as the fair average value of household goods was less than $10 per cwt. Under the decisions in Kansas Southern Ry. v. Carl, 227 U.S. 639, 655; Missouri, Kans. & Tex. Ry. v. Harriman, 227 U.S. 657, it was not necessary to offer evidence to sustain the reasonableness of rates, classification, or other terms in the tariff filed with the Commission. The shipper had the right, by appropriate proceedings, to attack the rate or the classification and if either or both were held to be unreasonable could secure appropriate relief either by Reparation Order, or by suit in court, after such finding of unreasonableness. But so long as the tariff rate, based on value, remained operative it was binding upon the shipper and carrier alike and was to be enforced by the courts in fixing the rights and liabilities of the parties. The tariffs are filed with the Commission and are open to inspection at every station. In view of the multitude of transactions, it is not necessary that there shall be an inquiry as to each article or a distinct agreement as to the value of each shipment. If no value is stated the tariff rate applicable to such a state of facts applies. If, on the other hand, there are alternative rates based on value and the shipper names a value to secure the lower rate, the carrier, in the absence of something to show rebating or false billing, is entitled to collect the rate which applies to goods of that class, and if sued for their loss it is liable only for the loss of what the shipper had declared them to be in class and value.

4. Nor was the result changed because of the use of printed forms. This appears from the ruling in Hart v. Pennsylvania R.R. Co., 112 U.S. 331, where it was claimed that the shipper had not been asked to state the value but had merely signed a printed contract naming a value. The court said (p. 338): "The valuation named was the `agreed valuation,' the one on which the minds of the parties met, however it came to be fixed, and the rate of freight was based on that valuation, and was fixed on condition that such was the valuation, and that the liability should go to that extent and no further." The rule of the Hart, Carl and Harriman cases was not applied in the court below, and the judgment must be

Reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.


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