Kansas City Southern Ry. Co. v. Carl,
227 U.S. 639 (1913)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kansas City Southern Ry. Co. v. Carl, 227 U.S. 639 (1913)

Kansas City Southern Railway Company v. Carl

No. 16

Argued October 22, 1912

Decided March 10, 1913

227 U.S. 639


Under the Carmack Amendment an interstate carrier comes under liability not only for its own default, but also for loss and damage upon the line of any connecting carrier. Atlantic Coast Line v. Riverside Mills, 219 U. S. 186.

Under the Carmack Amendment, a stipulation for limitation of liability, if unauthorized as to the initial carrier, is ineffective also as to a connecting carrier, and if valid as to the initial carrier, is valid as to a connecting carrier.

The Carmack Amendment does not forbid a limitation of liability in case of loss or damage to a valuation agreed upon for the purpose of determining which of two alternative lawful rates shall apply to a particular shipment.

The Carmack Amendment manifested the purpose of Congress to bring contracts for interstate shipments under one uniform rule or law, and therefore withdraw them from the influence of state regulation. Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U. S. 491.

An agreement to release a carrier for part of a loss of an interstate shipment due to negligence is no more valid than one for complete exemption, neither is such a contract any more valid because it rests on consideration than if it were without consideration; but a declared value by the shipper for the purpose of determining the applicable rate based upon valuation is not an exemption from either statutory or common law liability.

Under the Act to Regulate Commerce, a carrier who has filed rate sheets which show two rates based upon valuation is legally bound to charge the applicable rate.

A shipper who declares either voluntarily or on request the value of the article shipped so as to obtain the lower of several rates based on valuation is estopped upon plain principles of justice from recovering any greater amount.

A shipper who has declared a value to get the lower of two rates cannot be allowed to introduce evidence aliunde so as to recover a larger amount as the true value; it would encourage undervaluations and result in illegal preferences and discrimination.

Page 227 U. S. 640

Where the duly filed tariff sheets show different rates based on valuation, the shipper must take notice of the applicable rate, and actual want of knowledge is no excuse; his knowledge is conclusively presumed.

A carrier cannot contract with a particular shipper for an unusual service unless he make and publish a rate for such service equally for all. Chicago & Alton Ry. v. Kirby, 225 U. S. 155.

An administrative rule of the Interstate Commerce Commission is that valuation and rate are dependent each upon the other.

In this case, the valuation agreement of the contract was expressed in usual form, was conclusive on the shipper, and does not offend the Carmack Amendment.

91 Ark. 97, 121 S.W. 932, reversed.

Action by the holder of a bill of lading issued by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway for two boxes and one barrel containing "household goods," received at Lawton, in what was then the Indian Territory, a station on the line of the railway company, for transportation to Gentry, Arkansas, a station on the line of railway of plaintiff in error. One of the boxes was never delivered, and the shipper sued to recover its value.

The defense was that the plaintiff had, in order to obtain the lower of two freight rates, shipped the boxes under an agreement that the goods, in case of a loss, should be valued at $5 per hundredweight, and that it, as a succeeding carrier in the route, was entitled to the benefit of that limitation of value. The total weight of the two boxes and barrel was 400 pounds, and the weight of the box lost was not over 200 pounds. The limitation of liability was in the form of a release signed by the shipper, and was delivered to the primary carrier on receipt of the bill of lading.

The relevant parts of the bill of lading were in these words:

"Lawton, 10-8-1907"

"Received from J. M. Carl, in apparent good order, by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company,

Page 227 U. S. 641

the following described packages marked and numbered as per margin, subject to the conditions and regulations of the published tariff of said company, to be transported over the line of this railroad to _____ and delivered, after payment of freight, in like good order to the next carrier (if the same are to be forwarded beyond the line of this company's road), to be carried to the place of destination, it being especially agreed that the responsibility of this company shall cease at this company's depot at which the same are to be delivered to such carrier; but this company guarantees that the rates of freight for the transportation of said packages from the place of shipment to _____ shall not exceed ___ per ___ and charges advanced by this company, subject to the following conditions:"

"* * * *"

"It is further especially agreed that for all loss or damage occurring in the transit of said packages the legal remedy shall be against the particular carrier or forwarder only in whose custody may be actually at the happening thereof, it being understood that the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company assumes no other responsibility for their safe carriage or safety than may be incurred on its own road."

"* * * *"


Consignee: Destination:

J.M. Carl. Gentry, Ark.


Description of Articles


Weights Stamp

No. Subject to correction

2 Bx. H.H. goods. Paid to apply $3.85

1 Brl. H.H. goods. 400

O.R. Val. 5.00 cwt. 127016


"R. F. Prettyman, Agent"

Page 227 U. S. 642

The legend "O. R. Val. 5.00 cwt." on the bill of lading is an abbreviation for "Owner's released valuation $5 per hundredweight," and was intended to connect with the contract of release, which was in these words:

"Lawton Station, 10, 8, 1907."

"In consideration of the price (special rates on carloads and first-class rates on less quantities) at which the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company hereby agrees to transport a quantity of household goods, furniture, or emigrants' movables -- including livestock, if any in the car -- from Lawton, O.T. station to Gentry, Arkansas, station, the same being consigned to J. M. Carl. I, _____ _____, the consignor, hereby release the said company, and all other railroad and transportation companies over whose lines the above property may pass to destination, from all liability from any loss or damage said property may sustain in excess of $5 per 100 lbs., and I hereby guarantee all charges for freight on connection lines to destination."

"J. M. Carl, Consignor."

"N.B. -- When household goods, etc., are shipped at rate based on valuation of $5 per hundred pounds, agents will require the owner or consignor to sign this agreement, and when signed, same must be kept on file at forwarding station. Agent must then note on Way Bill, 'Released to valuation of $5 per hundred pounds.'"

The suit was started before a state justice of the peace, and the pleadings were informal. There was a judgment for $75, which was the uncontradicted full value of the goods lost. The case was taken to the circuit court for Benton County, where there was a verdict and a judgment for the same amount. This judgment was, upon a writ of error, affirmed in the supreme court of the state, the case being reported in 91 Ark. 97, 121 S.W. 932.

Page 227 U. S. 643

The uncontradicted evidence was that two boxes and a barrel containing household goods were delivered to the initial carrier, and that the plaintiff in error received same, but delivered only one of the boxes and the barrel, and that the value of the box lost was $75; that there were two rates in effect upon household goods shipped from Lawton to Gentry, one based upon a released valuation of $5 per hundredweight, and a higher rate upon such articles not so released, and that the latter rate was 78 cents per hundred pounds higher than the released valuation rate, and that these two rates "were evidenced by tariffs duly filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission and published according to law."

The defendant in error testified, over objection, that though he could read and write, and had signed the release set out above, and had received the bill of lading, he had neither read them nor asked any questions about them, and had not been given any information as to the contents of either document, and had no knowledge of the existence of the two rates. He was also allowed to testify that, if he had known of the difference between the two rates, and the effect of accepting the lower, he would have paid the higher rate. There was no evidence tending to show any misrepresentation made by the company, or of any deceit, or fraud, or concealment, unless it be inferred from the fact that the company made no explanation of the rates or the contents of either the bill of lading or the release. The shipper merely said that the bill of lading was handed to him with the release, which he was asked to sign. Exceptions were taken to the rulings upon evidence and to certain parts of the charge, and for the refusal of the court to grant certain requests.

Page 227 U. S. 646

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