Mullen v. Western Union Beef Co.,
173 U.S. 116 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mullen v. Western Union Beef Co., 173 U.S. 116 (1899)

Mullen v. Western Union Beef Company

No. 153

Argued and submitted January 18, 1899

Decided February 20, 1899

173 U.S. 116


On the facts stated by the Court in its opinion, it declines to hold that it affirmatively appears from the record that a decision could not have been had in the supreme court of the state, which is the highest court in the state, and this being so, it holds that the writ of error must be dismissed.

This was an action brought by Mullen and McPhee against the Western Union Beef Company, in the District Court of Arapahoe County, Colorado, to recover damages for loss of stock occasioned by the communication from cattle of defendant to cattle of plaintiffs of the disease known as splenetic or Texas fever, by the importation into Colorado of a herd of Texas cattle, in June, 1891, and suffering them to go at large, in violation of the quarantine rules, regulations, and orders of the United States Department of Agriculture, in accordance with the Act of Congress approved May 29, 1884, entitled "An act for the establishment of a Bureau of Animal Industry," etc., 23 Stat. 31, c. 60, and the Act approved July 14, 1890, 26 Stat. 287, c. 707, and in violation of the quarantine rules and regulations of the State of Colorado. The trial resulted in a verdict for defendant, on which judgment was entered. Plaintiffs sued out a writ of error from the court of appeals of the State of Colorado, and the judgment was affirmed, whereupon the present writ of error was allowed.

The court of appeals held that the question of violation by defendant of the quarantine rules and regulations of the state need not be considered because, "upon sufficient evidence, it was settled by the jury in defendant's favor," that "no question of negligence generally in the shipment and management of the cattle is presented by the record," and that the theory on which the case had been tried below and was argued in that court was that

"if the loss of the plaintiffs'

Page 173 U. S. 117

cattle was in consequence of disease communicated by the cattle of the defendant, its liability depends upon its acts with reference to rules and regulations which it was legally bound to observe."

The regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture were as follows:

"Regulations Concerning Cattle Transportation"

"United States Department of Agriculture"

"Office of the Secretary"

"Washington, D.C., February 5, 1891"

"To the Managers and Agents of Railroad and Transportation Companies of the United States, Stockmen, and Others:"

"In accordance with section 7 of the Act of Congress approved May 29, 1884, entitled"

"An act for the establishment of a bureau of animal industry, to prevent the exportation of diseased cattle and to provide means for the suppression and extirpation of pleuro-pneumonia and other contagious diseases among domestic animals,"

"and of the Act of Congress approved July 14, 1890, making appropriation for the Department of Agriculture for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1891, you are notified that a contagious and infectious disease known as splenetic or southern fever exists among cattle in the following-described area of the United States: . . . From the 15th day of February to the 1st day of December, 1891, no cattle are to be transported from said area to any portion of the United States north or west of the above-described line except in accordance with the following regulations:"

"[Here followed a series of stringent rules concerning the method to be pursued in transporting cattle from the infected districts.]"

"United States Department of Agriculture"

"Office of the Secretary"

"Washington, D.C., April 23, 1891"

"Notice is hereby given that cattle which have been at least ninety days in the area of country hereinafter described

Page 173 U. S. 118

may be moved from said area by rail into the States of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana for grazing purposes, in accordance with the regulations made by said states for the admission of southern cattle thereto."


"1. That cattle from said area shall go into said states only for slaughter or grazing, and shall on no account be shipped from said states into any other state or territory of the United States before the 1st day of December, 1891."

"2. That such cattle shall not be allowed in pens or on trails or ranges that are to be occupied or crossed by cattle going to the eastern markets before December 1, 1891, and that these two classes shall not be allowed to come in contact."

"3. That all cars which have carried cattle from said area shall, upon unloading at once be cleaned and disinfected in the manner provided by the regulations of this department of February 5, 1891."

"4. That the state authorities of the States of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana agree to enforce these provisions."

The court, after stating that the territory described in both orders included that from which the defendant's cattle were shipped, said:

"It is the rules relating to the isolation of cattle moved from infected districts, and more particularly the second proviso of the second order, which were claimed to have been violated by the defendant."

And it was then ruled that the regulations were not binding, as it was not shown that the state had agreed to them; that they were not authorized by the statute; that

"the second provision undertakes to regulate the duties, in relation to them [the cattle], of the persons by whom they might be removed after their arrival in the state, and it is upon this provision that plaintiffs' reliance is chiefly placed. After becoming domiciled within the state, their management would be regulated by its laws, and not by the act of Congress. Any violation of the federal law in connection with the cattle would consist in their removal . The disposition of them afterwards

Page 173 U. S. 119

was not within the scope of the statute."

49 P. 425.

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