Merchants' Cotton Press Co. v. Insurance Co. - 151 U.S. 368 (1894)
U.S. Supreme Court
Merchants' Cotton Press Co. v. Insurance Co., 151 U.S. 368 (1894)
Merchants' Cotton Press Company and Storage
Company v. Insurance Company of North America
Submitted January 8, 1894
Decided January 22, 1894
151 U.S. 368
A railroad company agreed with a cotton compress company that the latter should receive and compress all the cotton which the railroad might have to transport in compressed condition, and that it should insure the same for the benefit of the railroad company, or of the owners of the cotton, for a certain compensation which the railroad company agreed to pay weekly. It was further agreed that the compress company, on receiving the cotton, was to give receipts therefor, and that the railroad company, on receiving such a receipt, was to issue a bill of lading in exchange for it. Cotton of the value of $700,000, thus deposited with the compress company for compress and transportation, was destroyed by fire. That company had taken out policies of insurance upon it, but to a less amount, in all of which the compress company was named as the assured, but in the body of each policy it was stated that it was issued for the benefit of the railroad company or of the owners. The various owners of the cotton further insured their respective interests in other insurance companies,
called in the litigation the marine insurance companies. After the fire, the amounts of the several losses were paid to the assured by the several marine companies. In an action in the courts of Tennessee to settle the rights of the parties, the Supreme Court of that state held (89 Tenn. 1; 90 Tenn. 306) that the companies so paying were entitled to be subrogated to the rights of the owners or consignees against the railroad company under its bills of lading, and that the railroad company was entitled to have the insurance which had been taken out by the compress company collected for its benefit. The railroad company not being party to those suits, the marine insurance companies filed their bill in equity in a state court in Tennessee against the compress company, the several persons who had insured the destroyed cotton for it, and the railroad company, to reach and subject the fire insurance taken out by the compress company for the benefit of the railroad company, and for other relief set forth in the bill. The plaintiffs in the suit were a corporation under the laws of Pennsylvania, a corporation under the laws of New York, and a corporation under the laws of Rhode Island, on behalf of themselves and of all other companies standing in like position. On the other side were two corporations under the laws of Pennsylvania, two corporations under the laws of Great Britain, a corporation under the laws of New York, certain residents of Rhode Island, certain citizens of New York, certain citizens of Tennessee, two aliens, and forty-four insurance companies of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Alabama, Connecticut, Ohio, Texas, Indiana, and Great Britain. The defendants petitioned for the removal of the cause to the circuit court of the United States on the ground that the controversy was wholly between citizens of different states or between citizens of one or more of the several states and foreign citizens and subjects, and that the same could be fully determined as between them. The petition was denied and the cause proceeded to judgment in the state court. In the course of the trial, it was attempted to be proved that special rates, rebates or drawbacks had been given in violation of the interstate commerce laws and regulations. A decree being entered for the plaintiffs giving relief substantially as prayed for in the bill, the supreme court of the state, on appeal, affirmed the judgment below and held that the law making agreements for rebates, etc., void, did not invalidate the contracts of affreightment. A writ of error being sued out to this Court, it is now
(1) That whether the cause be looked at as a whole or whether it be considered under any adjustment or arrangement of the parties on opposite sides of the matter in dispute, there was no right of removal, on the part of the several plaintiffs in error, or either of them.
(2) That there is nothing in the interstate commerce law which vitiates bills of lading, or which, by reason of an allowance of rebates, if actually made, would invalidate a contract of affreightment or exempt a railroad company from liability on its bills of lading.
The case is stated at length in the opinion of the Court. For the purpose of understanding the brief of counsel, the condensed statement in the headnote is sufficient. There was also a motion to dismiss or affirm.