Chicago, R.I. & Pac. Ry. Co. v. Hardwick Elevator Co.
Annotate this Case
226 U.S. 426 (1913)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Chicago, R.I. & Pac. Ry. Co. v. Hardwick Elevator Co., 226 U.S. 426 (1913)
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company v.
Hardwick Farmers Elevator Company
Argued November 25, 1912
Decided January 6, 1913
226 U.S. 426
By the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906, 34 Stat. 584, c. 3591, Congress legislated concerning the deliveries of cars in interstate commerce, and made it the duty of the carrier to provide and furnish transportation.
There can be no divided authority over interstate commerce, and regulations of Congress on that subject are supreme.
As to those subjects upon which the states may act in the absence of legislation by Congress, the power of the state ceases the moment Congress exerts its paramount authority thereover.
Since the enactment of the Hepburn Act, it is beyond the power of a state to regulate the delivery of cars for interstate shipments, and so held as to the Reciprocal Demurrage Law of Minnesota of 1907.
110 Minn. 25 reversed.
A statute passed by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota, and known as the Minnesota Reciprocal Demurrage Law, became effective on July 1, 1907. Laws of Minnesota, 1907, c. 23.
The law, among other things, made it the duty of a railway company subject to its provisions, on demand by a shipper, to furnish cars for transportation of freight at terminal points on its line of road in Minnesota, within forty-eight hours, and at intermediate points within seventy-two hours, after such demand, Sundays and legal holidays excepted. For each day's delay in furnishing cars when so demanded -- except when prevented by strikes, public calamities, accident, or any cause not within the power of the railroad to prevent -- the defaulting company was made liable to pay to the shipper
one dollar per car, together with the damages sustained and a reasonable attorney's fee.
Alleging that, in respect of delays in the deliveries to it of fourteen freight cars, pursuant to eight applications made for such cars between September 19, 1907, and October 22, 1907, the first section of the act in question had been violated, the Hardwick Farmers Elevator Company, defendant in error here, commenced this action in a district court of Minnesota to recover from the railway company, plaintiff in error here, penalties aggregating $218 and an attorney's fee of $50, together with the costs and disbursements of the action. As a defense, the railway company set up that the cars in question were demanded for the purpose of interstate traffic, and that the delays complained of were occasioned solely by an unusual and unprecedented congestion of traffic and a consequent scarcity of cars, arising from their use in moving traffic and commerce between the states, and that such delays therefore arose from causes not within the control and power of the company. It was also claimed that, if the statute in question embraced interstate commerce, and was applied to the requisitions for cars referred to in the complaint, it would be repugnant to the commerce clause and to the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution of the United States. The action was tried to a jury. The trial judge refused to give instructions asked for by the railway company, embodying the constitutional objections made in its answer. A verdict was returned for the plaintiff for the amount claimed, including an attorney's fee, and a judgment entered on the verdict was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. 110 Minn. 25.