Union Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Lynch - 177 U.S. 149 (1900)
U.S. Supreme Court
Union Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Lynch, 177 U.S. 149 (1900)
Union Refrigerator Transit Company v. Lynch
Argued March 21, 1900
Decided April 9, 1900
177 U.S. 149
Cars of the Union Refrigerator Transit Company, a corporation of Kentucky, engaged in furnishing to shippers refrigerator cars for the transportation of perishable freight, and which were employed in the State of Utah for that purpose, were subject to taxation by that state.
The Union Refrigerator Transit Company filed its bill in the District Court in and for Salt Lake County, Utah, against Stephen H. Lynch, Treasurer of Salt Lake County and collector of taxes therein, alleging:
"That it is and was during all the times hereinafter mentioned a corporation duly organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the Kentucky; that its principal office and place of business is in the City of Louisville, in said state, and was and is engaged exclusively in the business of furnishing to shippers refrigerator cars for the transportation of perishable freight over the various lines of railroads throughout the United States and of soliciting shipments for such cars and giving to the said cars needful attention at various points in transit; that the said cars are and were during the said times the sole property of the plaintiff, and are not and were not during any of the said time allotted,
leased, rented, or furnished under contract to any railroad company or companies or carriers of freight, nor were they run on any particular line or lines of railroad, nor were they confined to any particular route or routes, nor in any particular trains, nor at any specified or agreed times, but are and were run indiscriminately over the lines of railroad over which consignors of freight shipped in such cars choose to route them in shipping."
The plaintiff further alleges that the business in which said cars, including the cars hereinbefore mentioned, are and were during the said times engaged was exclusively interstate commerce business, being confined to interchange and transportation of perishable products of the various parts of the United States from points in some of said states to points in others of the said states, that plaintiff has not now and has not had any office or place of business within the State of Utah, and that all freight transported in plaintiff's cars in or through the State of Utah, including the cars hereinafter mentioned, was transported in said cars either from a point or points in a state of the United States outside of the State of Utah to a point or points within the State of Utah or from a point or points within the State of Utah to a point or points without the State of Utah, or between points neither of which were within the State of Utah, and that said cars were within the said State of Utah at no regular intervals nor in any regular number, and when in said State of Utah were only within it in transit, except to load or unload freight shipped from within out of said state or coming into said state from without the same or in the transportation of freight entirely through or across said state, and at such times the said cars were only transiently present for the said purposes, and not otherwise.
And plaintiff further alleges that said cars do not and did not abide, nor have they at any time had any situs, within the said State of Utah, nor has this plaintiff, nor has it heretofore at any time had, other property of any description whatsoever located within the State of Utah.
And plaintiff alleges that its cars so used as hereinbefore stated, and not otherwise, are not subject to tax within the said state for any purpose whatsoever.
That, notwithstanding the aforesaid facts, the State Board of Equalization of the State of Utah unlawfully and wrongfully on the 14th day of August, 1897, assessed and valued, of the property of the plaintiff, ten cars of the aggregate assessment of $2,600, for all purposes of county and state taxation for the year 1897, and thereafter wrongfully and unlawfully apportioned the said assessment to the several counties in the said State of Utah through which lines of railway pass and over which the said cars might pass or be transported, that, among the counties to which said apportionment was made was the County of Salt Lake, and there was by the said board apportioned to said County of Salt Lake of the said assessment the sum of $210.
That the taxes levied upon the said property so assessed and apportioned to Salt Lake county for state, state school, county, city, and city school taxes amounted to the sum of $5.76; that the said tax was and is by reason of the aforesaid facts illegal and void.
Plaintiff then averred the payment of the tax under written protest, claiming the tax to be illegal, in order to avoid the seizure and sale of its property and to prevent incurring the penalties provided by law, and prayed judgment for the sum of $5.76 and interest, and for costs. Defendant filed a general demurrer to the complaint, which was sustained, and, plaintiff electing not to amend but to stand on its complaint, judgment of dismissal, with costs, was entered. The cause was then taken to the Supreme Court of Utah and the judgment affirmed. 18 Utah 378. Thereupon this writ of error was allowed by the chief justice of that court.