Railroad Company v. Androscoggin Mills
89 U.S. 594

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U.S. Supreme Court

Railroad Company v. Androscoggin Mills, 89 U.S. 22 Wall. 594 594 (1874)

Railroad Company v. Androscoggin Mills

89 U.S. (22 Wall.) 594

Syllabus

The Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company, of Indiana, owning a railroad running from the south line of that state northward to another point in it, and which made a line of road by which cotton was brought from Columbus, Mississippi, to Boston, Massachusetts, established, apparently with the view of procuring freights over its road, an agency in the former place, and there, as it seemed, was in the habit of contracting for the transportation of cotton from Columbus to Boston, its own road providing one link of the chain for transportation.

Planters in Columbus shipped from that place to manufacturers in Boston a quantity of cotton. The bill of lading, dated at Columbus, Mississippi, and signed by the agent, at Columbus, of the railroad company, had in display letters at its top

"EVANSVILLE AND CRAWFORDSVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY"

"Great through fast freight route to all points north and east, via Pennsylvania Central, Erie, and New York Central Railroads. Contract for through rate. This reliable through line makes the shipment of cotton a specialty, and guarantees quick time and delivery in good order."

The bill, after stating the destination of the cotton to be Boston, Massachusetts, went on to say:

"The Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company hereby agree that

Page 89 U. S. 595

upon arrival at Evansville, and delivery of the property, they will receive and forward said property to destination upon the following conditions: that the shipper, owner, and consignee do hereby release the said company and the boats and railroads with which they connect, from the acts of Providence, or from damage or loss by fire or other casualty while in depots or places of transshipment; also damage or delays by unavoidable accidents; also loss by fire, collision, or dangers of navigation, or for loss or difference in weights, torn baggage, or condition of said property."

"The Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company will not be liable for loss or damage fire, from any cause whatever."

"All property shipped on this contract will be subject to the expense of necessary repairs and remarking. In the event of loss or damage under the provisions of this agreement, the value or cost at the point of shipment shall govern the settlement of the same. Said property to be forwarded immediately after its arrival at Evansville, . . . and to be delivered at Boston, upon the payment of the freight and charges as herein specified."

"Through rate $10.25 par bale, from Columbus to Boston."

The exemption just above put in italics was printed in red ink. Held:

1. That the cotton being delivered to the company's agent, at Columbus, there was a contract by the company to carry from Columbus to Boston.

2. That the exemption in red ink applied to the whole route, between Columbus and Boston, and not to the part alone between Evansville and Boston, and that the cotton having been burned between Columbus and Evansville, without fault of the railroad company, the exemption in red ink applied and absolved the company from liability for the loss.

The Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company was a railroad company incorporated by the State of Indiana, and having a railroad between Evansville, in the southern part of Indiana, and Crawfordsville, in the northern. The road is part of a line of road for the transportation of cotton between the cotton fields of the South and the cotton mills of the North. For the purpose, apparently, of procuring freights over its road, this company had established an agency at Columbus, in Mississippi, and was in the habit of making contracts there for the transportation of cotton from that place to Boston, Massachusetts, its own road forming one link of the chain of transportation.

On the 10th of January, 1873, Mitchell & Co. shipped, from the said Columbus, in Mississippi, to B. F. Bates, the treasurer of the "Androscoggin Mills," an incorporated

Page 89 U. S. 596

company in New England, two hundred bales of cotton, to be delivered at Boston.

The bill of lading, creating the contract between the parties, was as follows, viz.:

"EVANSVILLE AND CRAWFORDSVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY"

"Great through Fast Freight Route to all points North and East via"

"Pennsylvania Central, Erie, and New York Central Railroads"

`CONTRACT FOR THROUGH RATE

"A. E. SHRADER"

"General Freight Agent, Evansville, Indiana"

"This reliable through line makes the shipment of cotton and tobacco a specialty, and guarantees quick time and delivery in good order."

"COLUMBUS, MISS., January 10, 1873"

"Received from Mitchell & Co. the following packages (contents unknown), in apparent good order, viz.:"

image:a

"The Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company hereby agree that, [bb]upon arrival at Evansville and delivery of the property[eb] above described and consigned, [bb]they will receive and forward said property to destination[eb] upon the [bb]following[eb] conditions: that the shipper, owner, and consignee do hereby release the said Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company, and the boats and railroads will which they connect, from the acts of Providence, or from [bb]damage[eb] or [bb]loss by fire[eb] or other casualty [bb]while in depots or places of transshipment;[eb] also, damage or delays by [bb]unavoidable accidents;[eb] also, [bb]loss by fire,[eb] collision, or dangers of navigation, or for loss or difference in weights, torn baggage, or condition of said property."

"THE EVANSVILLE AND CRAWFORDSVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR LOSS OR DAMAGE BY FIRE, FROM ANY CAUSE WHATEVER."

"All property shipped on this contract will be subject to the

Page 89 U. S. 597

expense of necessary repairs and remarking. In the event of loss or damage under the provisions of this agreement, the value or cost at the point of shipment shall govern the settlement of the same. Said property to be forwarded immediately after its arrival at Evansville, or as soon thereafter as it is ready for shipment, and to be delivered at Boston, Massachusetts, upon the payment of the freight and charges as herein specified."

"In witness whereof, the agent hath affirmed to four bills of lading of this tenor and date, one of which being accomplished the others to stand void."

"Through rate $10.25 per bale, from Columbus to Boston."

"L. Q. AYRES"

"Agent"

The words in small capital letters at or near the bottom of the preceding page were printed, in the bill of lading, in red ink, so as to be conspicuous. Those in bold face in the twelve lines before are here so put by the Reporter, being words on which the question partly turned.

The cotton was burned on the way from Columbus to Evansville -- that is to say was burned before it ever reached Evansville.

The Androscoggin Mills now sued the Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad Company, declaring upon that clause of the contract which contained the provision that

"upon the arrival at Evansville and delivery of the property above consigned, they will receive and forward said property to destination upon the following conditions,"

conditions among which, as the reader has noted, was one that the company would not be liable for loss by fire while in depots or places of transshipment, and another, that they would not be liable for loss by fire, collision, or dangers of navigation, or loss or difference in weights &c. And as the cotton had not arrived at Evansville when the loss occurred, the argument of the Androscoggin Mills was that the condition of an exemption from liability in the case of a loss by fire did not attach, and that the railroad company was to be subjected to the loss upon the general principle of its liability as a common carrier.

Page 89 U. S. 598

On demurrer, the court below was of the opinion that this position was a sound one, and gave judgment against the Evansville & Crawfordsville company.

From that judgment the company appealed.

Page 89 U. S. 601

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