Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Smith, Huggins & Co.,
204 U.S. 551 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Smith, Huggins & Co., 204 U.S. 551 (1907)

Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company

v. Smith, Huggins & Company

No. 198

Argued January 31, 1907

Decided February 25, 1907

204 U.S. 551


If a party relies upon a federal right, he must specially set it up. The mere denial of a carrier, sued for damages to merchandise, that it was bound by contracts of the initial carrier or that it was the connecting and ultimate carrier of the merchandise and bound "by the law " to receive and forward the merchandise does not, in the absence of any other reference thereto, raise a federal question under the Interstate Commerce Act which gives this Court jurisdiction to review the judgment under § 709, Rev.Stat.

While the certificate of the presiding judge of a state court can make more certain and specific what is too general and indefinite in the record, it cannot give jurisdiction to this Court under § 709, Rev.Stat., where there is nothing in the record in the way of a federal question to specialize and make definite and certain.

This suit was brought in the Chancery Court for the County of Jefferson, State of Tennessee, by defendant in error against the plaintiff in error and the Southern Railway Company, for damages alleged to have been received by the defendant in error to certain carloads of corn shipped over the Southern Railway Company from certain points in Tennessee, to be delivered to defendant in error or its order at Birmingham, Alabama.

The bill alleged that, at the time of the shipments, the two

Page 204 U. S. 552

railway companies were common carriers of goods and chattels, the Southern Railway being the receiving and initial carrier, and the one with which the contracts were made, and the plaintiff in error being the connecting and ultimate carrier, and, as such, bound by said contracts and the law relative to common carriers to receive said cars of corn and to forward and deliver them to destination whereunto consigned in good order and in a reasonable time. It was alleged that one of said companies "breached the said several contracts," whereby the damage complained of accrued.

The companies filed separate answers. That of the Southern Railway Company we need not set out. Plaintiff in error, in its answer, neither admitted nor denied certain of the allegations of the bill, and expressed want of knowledge as to others. Touching the allegation of the bill that it was a common carrier, it admitted that it was such in certain states and portions of the country where it operated lines of roads, but denied "that it was the connecting and ultimate carrier of the carloads of corn alleged to have been delivered to the Southern Railway Company," denied that it made the contracts or was liable under them, or

"that it was bound by law to receive said alleged carloads of corn and forward and deliver them to their ultimate destination in good order and in reasonable time."

The chancellor adjudged that there was no liability on the part of plaintiff in error, and dismissed the bill as to it. He held the Southern Railway Company liable for not delivering the cars, according to its contracts, within a reasonable time, and, after report by a master, to whom the cause was referred, decreed that complainant have and recover the sum of $1,015.69. The case was taken to the Court of Chancery Appeals both by defendant in error and the Southern Railway Company. And that court adjudged that the court of chancery erred (1) in adjudging that the Southern Railway Company was liable for any part of the damages to the corn which accrued after its arrival upon the delivery tracks of the company in

Page 204 U. S. 553

Birmingham and after notice to the consignees of its arrival; (2) in adjudging that plaintiff in error was not liable for the damages suffered by the corn after its arrival in Birmingham and while it was in the yards prior to being unloaded. The court said:

"This court is of the opinion that the Southern Railway Company is only liable for such portion of the damages as accrued by reason of the delay in transition of the cars shipped, which is fixed by the concurrent finding of the master and chancellor at 40 percent of the entire damages."

"This court is further of the opinion and decrees that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company is liable for sixty percent of the damages reported by the master, being the percent of damages which accrued while the corn remained undelivered in the yards at Birmingham."

It was accordingly adjudged and decreed that the complainant recover of the Southern Railway Company $415.84, and of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company $609.42, being sixty percent of the recovery awarded by the chancellor, together with interest from May 8, 1905, making a total of $623.73. The plaintiff in error took an appeal to the supreme court of the state. It assigned as error the action of the Court of Chancery Appeals (1) "In refusing to find certain uncontradicted facts when specially requested to so find." The facts were set out. (2) That the court erred in holding the company liable for any portion of the alleged damage "because, under the facts of the case, it was not a connecting carrier, and was not bound to handle these shipments." The other errors assigned we are not concerned with. The decree of the Chancery Court of Appeals was affirmed without an opinion by the supreme court. The order of affirmance recites that the cause came

"on to be heard upon the transcript of the record from the Chancery Court of Jefferson County, the opinion and findings of fact of the Court of Chancery Appeals, and the assignment of errors filed to the decree of said Court of Chancery Appeals by the defendant, Louisville & Nashville

Page 204 U. S. 554

Railroad Company, and the reply brief of complainants."

The assignments of error in this Court are to the effect that the supreme court erred in not giving full force and effect to the Interstate Commerce Act, which, it is contended, governed the shipments, and in not disregarding the statutes and decisions of the state in conflict therewith, and in denying the rights claimed by plaintiff in error under the Interstate Commerce Act. And that the court erred in holding that it was the duty of plaintiff in error to switch over its yards and terminals cars tendered to it by the Southern Railway Company; in holding that it did not have the right to discriminate as to freight arriving on its own lines, or could not prefer its own business; in rendering judgment against it because it would not turn over its private switch yards and terminals to a competing road, and because of its refusal to make a through routing with the Southern Railway Company; in holding that it was its duty to switch cars for other roads within its terminals to the exclusion of its own business, the effect being to cause an obstruction to interstate commerce and an interference with the paramount duties to which to was subjected by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Other facts will appear in the opinion.

Page 204 U. S. 556

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