Myrick v. Michigan Central R. Co.,
107 U.S. 102 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Myrick v. Michigan Central R. Co., 107 U.S. 102 (1883)

Myrick v. Michigan Central Railroad Company

Decided January 8, 1883

107 U.S. 102


1. In the absence of a special contract, a railroad company, by receiving cattle for transportation over its own line and other lines therewith connected, is only bound to carry the cattle over its own line, and deliver them safely to the next connecting carrier.

2. A contract whereby the liability of the company is sought to be extended beyond such carriage and delivery will not be inferred from loose and doubtful expressions, but must be established by clear and satisfactory evidence. Taking a through fare on the receipt of the cattle does not establish such liability.

3. The receipt of the company, post, p. 107 U. S. 103, does not of itself constitute such contract. The circumstances under which it was given should have been submitted to the jury to determine whether in fact a through contract was made.

4. In passing upon the rights of the parties, this Court will not be controlled by the judicial decisions of the state where the contract of carriage was made.

This is an action for breach of two alleged contracts of the Michigan Central Railroad Company with the plaintiff, Paris Myrick, each to carry for him two hundred and two head of cattle from Chicago to Philadelphia and there deliver them to his order. It arises out of these facts:

Myrick was in 1877 engaged at Chicago in the business of buying cattle, sometimes on his own account and sometimes for others, and forwarding them by railway to Philadelphia. The company is a corporation created by the State of Michigan, and its line extends from Chicago to Detroit, where it connects with the Great Western Railroad, which, by its connections, leads to Philadelphia.

In November, 1877, Myrick purchased two lots of cattle, each consisting of two hundred and two head, and shipped them over the road of the company. One of the purchases

Page 107 U. S. 103

and shipments was made on the seventh and the other on the fourteenth of the month. It will suffice to give the particulars of the first of these transactions, as they were identical in all respects except in the amount of the draft negotiated and the weight of the cattle. On the shipment of the cattle, Myrick took from the company a receipt, as follows:


"CHICAGO STATION, November 7, 1877"

"Received from Paris Myrick, in apparent good order, consigned order Paris Myrick (notify J. and W. Blaker, Philadelphia, Pa.):"


Articles Weight or



Two hundred and two (202) cattle . . . . . . . 240,000


"Advance charges, $12. Marked and described as above (contents and value otherwise unknown) for transportation by the Michigan Central Railroad Company to the warehouse at _____."

"WM. GEAGAN, Agent"

On the margin of the receipt was the following:

"This company will not hold itself responsible for the accuracy of these weights as between buyer and seller, the approximate weight having been ascertained by track scales, which is sufficiently accurate for freighting purposes, but may not be strictly correct as between buyer and seller. This receipt can be exchanged for a through bill of lading."

"NOTICE -- See rules of transportation on the back hereof. Use separate receipts for each consignment."

On the back of the receipt the rules were printed, one of which, the eleventh, was as follows:

"Goods or property consigned to any place off the company's line of road, or to any point or place beyond the termini, will be sent forward by a carrier or freightman, when there are such, in the usual manner, the company acting, for the purpose of delivery to such carrier, as the agent of the consignor or consignee, and not as carrier. The company will not be liable or responsible for any

Page 107 U. S. 104

loss, damage, or injury to the property after the same shall have been sent from any warehouse or station of the company."

On the day this receipt was obtained, Myrick drew and delivered to the Commercial National Bank at Chicago, a draft, of which the following is a copy:

"$12,287.57] CHICAGO, November 7, 1877"

"Pay to the order of Geo. L. Otis, cashier, twelve thousand two hundred and eighty-seven 57/100 dollars, value received, and charge the same to account of"


"To J. and W. Blaker, Newtown, Pa."

As security for its payment, Myrick endorsed the receipt obtained from the railroad company and delivered it, with the draft, to the bank, which thereupon gave him the money for it.

The cattle were carried on the road of the Michigan Central to Detroit, and thence over the road of the Great Western Railroad Company to Buffalo, and thence over the roads of other companies to Philadelphia, the last of which was the road of the North Pennsylvania Railroad Company. They arrived in Philadelphia in about four days after their shipment, where, according to the uniform custom in the course of business of the railroad company, they were they were turned over to the Drove-Yard Company, which was formed for the purpose of receiving cattle arriving there, taking care of them, and delivering them to their owners or consignees. This company notified the Blakers of the arrival of the cattle and delivered them to those parties without the production of the carrier's receipt transferred by Myrick to the Commercial National Bank. The Blakers paid the expense of the transportation, took possession of the cattle, sold them, and appropriated the proceeds. The lot shipped on the 14th of November were delivered in like manner to the Blakers by the Drove-Yard Company without the production of the carrier's receipt, given to the bank, and were in like manner disposed of. Soon afterwards, the Blakers failed, and the two drafts on them, one made upon the shipment of November 7 and the other on the shipment of November 14, were not paid. Hence the present action for the value of the cattle thus lost to the bank, Myrick suing for its use.

It appeared on the trial that Myrick had made previous

Page 107 U. S. 105

shipments of cattle from Chicago to Philadelphia and taken similar receipts from the Michigan Central Railroad Company; that the cattle shipped had always been delivered by the Pennsylvania Company at Philadelphia to the Drove-Yard Company there, and by that company delivered to the Blakers without the production of the carrier's receipt or any bill of lading; that the Blakers were dealers in cattle, and had particular pens in the yards assigned to them; that the cattle of the shipments of November 7 and November 14 were, on their arrival, placed by the superintendent of the drove-yards in those pens and were sold by the Blakers on the following day, and that the carrier's receipt was not called for either by the railroad or the stockyard company. It also appeared on the trial that Myrick bought the cattle for the Blakers, and that a person employed by them accompanied the cattle from Chicago until their delivery at the drove-yard at Philadelphia; that the through rate from Chicago to Philadelphia on the cattle was fifty-eight cents per hundred; that notice of this rate was posted in the station of the defendant company at Chicago, and that it was not the custom of the railroad company at Philadelphia to look to the consignee for freight, but collected it from the Drove-Yard Company.

The court was requested to give to the jury various instructions, one of which, though presented under many forms, amounts substantially to this: that as the road of the Michigan Central Railroad Company terminates at Detroit, the company was not bound, in the absence of special contract, to transport the cattle beyond such termination, and that the receipt of freight for a point beyond and an agreement for a through fare did not of themselves establish such a contract.

The court refused to give this instruction or any embodying the principle which it expresses. On the contrary, it instructed the jury that the receipt, termed "bill of lading," under the circumstances in which it was made, was a through contract whereby the defendant agreed to transport the cattle named in it from Chicago the Philadelphia, and there deliver them to the order of Paris Myrick, and to notify the Blakers from Chicago to Philadelphia, and the undertaking on the part of the defendant company with the plaintiff Myrick, and with any

Page 107 U. S. 106

assignee or holder of the contract. The facts attending the transaction not being disputed, there could be only one result from this instruction -- a recovery by the plaintiff. From the judgment entered thereon the case is brought to this Court for review.

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