Corona Coal Co. v. United States
263 U.S. 537 (1924)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Corona Coal Co. v. United States, 263 U.S. 537 (1924)

Corona Coal Co. v. United States

No. 42

Argued November 23, 26, 1923

Decided January 7, 1924

263 U.S. 537

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS

Syllabus

Where coal, requisitioned by the Fuel Administration for the Railroad Administration, was paid for by the latter at prices fixed in contracts between certain carriers, which it took over, and the coal owner, held:

(a) That the owner's claims against the Railroad Administration, reserved in the requisition, for the difference between the price paid and the greater price then fixed generally by the Fuel Administration, were causes of action arising out of the possession, use, and operation of the carriers by the President within Transportation Act § 206a, authorizing suit against the agent appointed by him. P. 263 U. S. 539.

(b) Under Jud.Code § 154, the institution and pendency of such actions in the district court prevents prosecution of an appeal pending here from an earlier judgment of the Court of Claims rejecting a claim against the United States on the same cause. Id.

(c) This prohibition of § 154 cannot be avoided upon the ground that the later actions were brought to avoid the time limitation of the Transportation Act. Id.

Appeal to review 57 Ct.Clms. 607 dismissed.

Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing a petition.

Page 263 U. S. 538

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

Page 263 U. S. 539

Appellant sued in the Court of Claims for a balance alleged to be due for coal delivered to the United States. Sometime prior to the delivery, appellant had entered into contracts with certain railroad companies to supply them with coal for specified periods of time and at stated prices. Upon the passing of the railroads into the control of the government by virtue of the President's proclamation of December 26, 1917, 40 Stat. 1733, the Railroad Administration claimed the right to enforce these contracts. The right was denied, whereupon the Fuel Administration requisitioned the coal "without prejudice to your [appellant's] right to assert a claim against the Railroad Administration or these various railroad companies" for any amount claimed to be legally payable. The Railroad Administration paid the prices fixed by the contracts, asserting that these were the measure of its liability. The general price for coal theretofore fixed by the Fuel Administration was more than the contract price, and this action was for the difference. The court below sustained a demurrer to the petition and dismissed it. After the rendition of judgment and before the appeal to this Court, appellant brought actions in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against James C. Davis, as Agent for the President under the Transportation Act of 1920, c. 91, 41 Stat. 456, the causes of action therein set forth being the same as that set forth in the present case. These alleged causes of action arose out of the possession, use, and operation by the President of the railroads in question and come within the provisions of § 206(a) of the act, c. 91, 41 Stat. 461.

The government has submitted a motion to dismiss the appeal relying upon the provisions of § 154 of the Judicial Code, which reads:

"No person shall file or prosecute in the Court of Claims, or in the Supreme Court on appeal therefrom,

Page 263 U. S. 540

any claim for or in respect to which he or any assignee of his has pending in any other court any suit or process against any person who at the time when the cause of action alleged in such suit or process arose, was, in respect thereto, acting or professing to act, mediately or immediately, under the authority of the United States."

At the time the alleged causes of action arose, the President was acting under the authority of the United States, and the actions being against an agent appointed by and acting for him, fall within the terms of the statute just quoted. It is urged, however, that the actions were brought, ex necessitate rei, because they were about to become barred by expiration of the statutory period of limitation, and that, for this and other reasons, the case is not within the spirit of § 154, properly construed. But the words of the statute are plain, with nothing in the context to make their meaning doubtful; no room is left for construction, and we are not at liberty to add an exception in order to remove apparent hardship in particular cases. See Amy v. Watertown,130 U. S. 320; St. Louis, Iron Mountain, etc., Railway Co. v. Taylor,210 U. S. 281, 210 U. S. 295; United States v. First National Bank,234 U. S. 245, 234 U. S. 259-260.

Appeal dismissed.

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