Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.
, and Kansas City Southern Ry. v. Carl,
p. 227 U. S. 639
followed to effect that the shipper who values his goods for the
purpose of obtaining the lower of two duly published rates, based
on valuation, is estopped from recovering a greater amount than his
own valuation, and that the Carmack Amendment to the Hepburn Act of
1906 expresses the policy of Congress on this subject, and
supersedes all state legislation thereon.
It is not unreasonable, and in fact is the method approved by
the Interstate Commerce Commission, in graduating freight according
to value, to divide the particular subject of transportation into
two classes -- those above and those below a fixed amount, and the
establishment of two cattle rates, one based on a maximum fixed
value and the other on the actual value, is not a violation of the
Carmack Amendment of the Hepburn Act.
The Carmack Amendment has withdrawn the determination of
validity of all stipulations in interstate shipping contracts from
state law and legislation. Under that amendment, the validity of a
provision that suit must be brought within a specified period is a
federal question, to be settled by the general common law.
The liability imposed by the Carmack Amendment is that of the
common law, and it may be limited or qualified by a special
contract with the shipper limiting it in a just and reasonable
manner except exemption from loss or responsibility due to
negligence, and so held
as to a stipulation that suit be
brought within ninety days from the happening of the loss.
Limitation of the time within which to bring actions is a usual
and reasonable provision, and there is nothing in the policy of the
Carmack Amendment that is violated thereby.
The facts, which involve the validity under the Carmack
Amendment of a contract for interstate shipment of
Page 227 U. S. 658
livestock and a provision therein fixing the valuation of the
shipment in case of loss in consideration of a lower rate, are
stated in the opinion.
Page 227 U. S. 664
MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.
This was an action in a state court of Texas by a shipper of
cattle, under a special live-stock transportation contract for a
shipment from a point in Missouri to a point in Oklahoma, to
recover the value of cattle killed by a negligent derailment
occurring in the former state. The shipment consisted of four bulls
and thirteen cows, claimed to have been very valuable "show
cattle." They were all killed, and plaintiffs recovered their full
value, $10,640, and this judgment was affirmed by the court
As the transaction was an interstate shipment, the case comes
here upon questions which involved the validity of certain
provisions in the contract of shipment when tested by the twentieth
section of the Act to Regulate Commerce, as amended by the Act of
June 29, 1906 (34 Stat. 593, c. 3591).
Aside from the question of negligence, which we assume to be
closed by the verdict and judgment in the state court, the defenses
pressed here are first, that the limitation of value in case of
loss or damage to $30 for each bull and $20 for each cow was a
valid declaration of the valuation upon which the rate was based,
and second, that the action was not brought within ninety days
after damages sustained, both being stipulations found in the
Those provisions in the contract which directly relate to the
questions stated are as follows:
The title at the head of the contract is:
Page 227 U. S. 665
"RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR THE TRANSPORTATION OF
"This company has two rates on livestock."
Then follows a paragraph in these words:
"Ordinary livestock transported under this special contract is
accepted and hauled at rate named below at owner's risk, as per
conditions herein set forth, with the distinct understanding that
said rate is a special rate, which is hereby agreed to, accepted,
and understood to be at less than published tariff rate applying
thereon when transported at carrier's risk."
"All kinds of livestock, carrier's risk, will be taken under the
provisions and at rates provided for by existing tariffs and
Then follows the contract described as "Special Live Stock
Contract No. 4. Executed at Pilot Grove Station, 1-30-1907."
Passing over a number of provisions concerning the agreement
upon the part of the carrier and a number of things which the
shipper assumes to do, we come to § 8, which is in these words:
"8. The carrier does not ship livestock or emigrant outfit under
this contract, or at the rate hereon given, upon which its
liability in case of any loss or injury shall exceed the following
prices per head:"
Each horse (gelding, mare, stallion, mule, or jack) . .
Each pony or range horse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Each ox, steer, or bull . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Each cow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Each calf or hog. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.00
Each sheep or goat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.00
"Emigrant outfit (not livestock) consisting of emigrant
movables, household goods, second-hand farm
Page 227 U. S. 666
machinery, etc., when loaded with livestock, as per
classification at valuation not to exceed $5 per 100 pounds in case
of loss or damage, and said shipper represents and agrees that his
said livestock or emigrant outfit do not exceed in value those
prices, and in case of any loss or damage thereto, by carrier's
negligent transportation or handling of said cars as aforesaid, it
is mutually agreed, in consideration of the rate named, and which
is less than the rate applying on shipments at carrier's risk, the
shipper shall be entitled to recover only actual damages, but in no
instance more than the stipulated valuation shown above."
The provision of the published tariff sheet referred to in the
contract is set out in the margin, preceded by the offer of counsel
to file it in evidence. *
By a clause in
Page 227 U. S. 667
section of the contract under which the cattle were shipped, it
is stipulated that
"no suit shall be brought against any carrier, and only against
the carrier on whose lines the injuries occur, after the lapse of
ninety days from the happening thereof, any statute or limitation
to the contrary notwithstanding."
In respect of the two stipulations just referred to, the trial
judge charged the jury as follows:
"The contract for shipment in this case contains, among other
things, a stipulation that suit for any damages growing out of this
shipment must be commenced within ninety days. You are instructed
that such stipulation is void and not binding upon the plaintiffs
"Said contract also contains a stipulation to the effect that,
if the cattle in the shipment are lost or killed, that their owners
can only recover a certain fixed amount, which amount is named in
said contract. You are instructed that such stipulation is void and
not binding upon plaintiffs in this case, and if you should find
for plaintiffs, you will fix the amount of their damages under
instructions hereinafter given you."
This charge was approved upon appeal and the judgment affirmed.
The ground upon which the charge in respect to the limitation of
recovery in case of loss was based was first, that every such
contract, where the loss was due to negligence, was null and void
under the law and public policy of the state, and second, that it
was a contract of exemption forbidden by the Hepburn Act of June
29, 1906, being the Carmack Amendment of the
Page 227 U. S. 668
twentieth section of the general Act to Regulate Commerce of
February 4, 1887.
That the shipper had the choice of two rates, one twenty percent
higher than the other, upon this shipment is shown by the
provisions of the shipping contract and the tariff sheets referred
to therein. That the difference between the two rates was not
unreasonable, the one when the cattle were not valued and the other
when their value was declared, is to be assumed from the acceptance
of the rates as filed with the Commission. That the "portion" of
the rate sheets in evidence does not include the "Current Live
Stock Contract" referred to in the part filed is of no vital
significance. The objection was not made below. The case was
proceeded with in the state court upon the hypothesis that the
"Current Live Stock Contract," referred to in the "portion" of the
rate sheets actually in evidence, was the livestock contract
executed by the parties, and had been duly filed as part of the
rate sheets. It is too late to make an objection here which, if
made below, might have been remedied by filing all instead of a
"portion" of the filed tariff. Texas & P. Railway v.
Abilene Oil Co., 204 U. S. 426
any event, the rate sheets do provide for a choice between two
rates, one with and one without a declared valuation. In one case,
the carrier is liable for whatever loss or damage the shipper
sustains, and in the other its liability is limited to the
valuation upon which the rate was based. The ground upon which the
shipper is limited to the valuation declared is that of estoppel,
and presupposes the valuation to be one made for the purpose of
applying the lower of two rates based upon the value of the cattle.
This whole matter has been so fully considered in Adams Express
Company v. Croninger, 226 U. S. 491
Kansas City Southern Railway v. Carl,
just decided, that
we only need to refer to the opinions in those cases, without
That the trial court and the court of civil appeals
Page 227 U. S. 669
erred in holding this stipulation null and void because
forbidden by either the law or policy of the State of Texas or by
the twentieth section of the Act of June 29, 1906, is no longer an
open question since the decisions of this Court in the cases just
Nor is there anything upon the face of this contract, when read
in connection with the rate sheets referred to therein (of which
the defendants in error were compelled to take notice, not only
because referred to in the contract signed by them, but because
they had been lawfully filed and published), which offends against
the provisions of the twentieth section of the Act of June 29,
Neither is the valuation of cattle at $30 and $20 per head
subject to impeachment as upon its face arbitrary and unreasonable.
The valuation in this case was made by the consignor himself. The
contract upon this point reads, "[a]nd said shipper represents and
agrees that his said livestock . . . do not exceed in value these
prices," referring to the schedule set out immediately above that
declaration. That the cattle were not other than average or
ordinary cattle, of no peculiar value as "show cattle," or
otherwise, is indicated by the character of the printed form of
contract signed by the consignor. After reciting that the company
had two rates on livestock, it proceeds -- "Ordinary livestock
transported under this special contract," etc.
The contract here involved is substantially identical with the
contract and schedule upheld in Hart v. Pennsylvania
Railroad, 112 U. S. 331
where the transportation was
"on the condition that the carrier assumes a liability on the
stock to the extent of the following agreed valuation: if horses or
mules, not exceeding two hundred dollars each. If cattle or cows,
not exceeding seventy-five dollars each."
In the case at bar it has been said that the shipper was not
asked to state the value, but only signed the contract
Page 227 U. S. 670
handed to him and made no declaration. But the same point was
made in the Hart
case, when the Court said:
"A distinction is sought to be drawn between a case where a
shipper, on requirement, states the value of the property, and a
rate of freight is fixed accordingly, and the present case. It is
said that, while in the former case the shipper may be confined to
the value he so fixed, in the event of a loss by negligence, the
same rule does not apply to a case where the valuation inserted in
the contract is not a valuation previously named by the shipper.
But we see no sound reason for this distinction. The valuation
named was the 'agreed valuation,' the one on which the minds of the
parties met, however it came to be fixed, and the rate of freight
was based on that valuation, and was fixed on condition that such
was the valuation, and that the liability should go to that extent
and no further."
It is said that the contract in the case at bar includes a
valuation of all bulls and all cows at the same sum, and that this
is arbitrary, and not the result of any real effort to value the
particular bulls and cows to be transported. But the same objection
applied to the contract in the Hart
case, where horses
were valued at the same maximum value and other cattle at the same
fixed sum. But here, as there, it is plain that all animals, horses
and other cattle have not a fixed value, and so the contract fixes
"a graduated value according to the nature of the animal."
It is not unreasonable, for the purpose of graduating freight
according to value, to divide the particular subject of
transportation into two classes: those above and those below a
fixed maximum amount. No other method is practicable, and this is a
method administratively approved by the Commerce Commission.
That the value of the cattle shipped under this valuation did
greatly exceed the valuation therein represented may
Page 227 U. S. 671
be true. It only serves to show that the shipper obtained a
lower rate than he was lawfully entitled to have by a
misrepresentation. It is neither just nor equitable that he shall
benefit by the lower rate, and then recover for a value which he
said did not exist, in order to obtain that rate. Having obtained a
rate based upon the declared value, he is concluded, and there is
no room for parol evidence to show otherwise. Hart v.
Pennsylvania R. Co.
and Kansas City Southern R. Co. v.
When the carrier graduates its rates by value, and has filed its
tariffs showing two rates applicable to a particular commodity or
class of articles, based upon a difference in valuation, the
shipper must take notice, for the valuation automatically
determines which of the rates is the lawful rate. If he knowingly
declares an undervaluation for the purpose of obtaining the lower
of two published rates, he thereby obtains an advantage and causes
a discrimination forbidden and made unlawful by the first section
of the Elkins Act of February 19, 1903, 32 Stat. 847, c. 708.
Texas & P. Railway v. Mugg, 202 U.
; Chicago & A. Railway v. Kirby,
225 U. S. 155
particular cattle were loaded by the shipper and were never seen by
the company's agent. Neither was it claimed that he was informed of
the value or quality of the cattle to be shipped. We see no ground
upon which this contract can be held upon its face to have offended
against the statute.
The court below held that the stipulation in the shipping
contract, that no suit shall be brought after the lapse of ninety
days from the happening of any loss or damage, "any statute or
limitation to the contrary notwithstanding," was void.
It is conceded that there are statutes in Missouri, the state of
the making of the contract, and the state in which the loss and
damage occurred, and in Texas, the state of the forum, which
declare contracts invalid which require the bringing of an action
for a carrier's liability
Page 227 U. S. 672
in less than the statutory period, and that this action, though
started after the lapse of the time fixed by the contract, was
brought within the statutory period of both states.
The liability sought to be enforced is the "liability" of an
interstate carrier for loss or damage under an interstate contract
of shipment declared by the Carmack Amendment of the Hepburn Act of
June 29, 1906. The validity of any stipulation in such a contract
which involves the construction of the statute, and the validity of
a limitation upon the liability thereby imposed, is a federal
question to be determined under the general common law, and, as
such, is withdrawn from the field of state law or legislation.
Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.
; Michigan Central Railroad v. Vreeland,
p. 227 U. S. 59
liability imposed by the statute is the liability imposed by the
common law upon a common carrier, and may be limited or qualified
by special contract with the shipper, provided the limitation or
qualification be just and reasonable, and does not exempt from loss
or responsibility due to negligence. Adams Express Co. v.
and Michigan Central Railroad v. Vreeland,
cited above; York Co. v. Central Railroad
3 Wall. 107; Railroad
Company v. Lockwood,
17 Wall. 357; Express
Company v. Caldwell,
21 Wall. 264, 88 U. S. 267
Hart v. Pennsylvania Railroad, 112 U.
The policy of statutes of limitation is to encourage promptness
in the bringing of actions, that the parties shall not suffer by
loss of evidence from death or disappearance of witnesses,
destruction of documents, or failure of memory. But there is
nothing in the policy or object of such statutes which forbids the
parties to an agreement to provide a shorter period, provided the
time is not unreasonably short. That is a question of law for the
determination of the court. Such stipulations have been sustained
in insurance policies. Riddlesbarger v.
Page 227 U. S. 673
7 Wall. 386. A stipulation that an
express company should not be held liable unless claim was made
within ninety days after a loss was held good in Express
Co. v. Caldwell,
21 Wall. 264. Such limitations in
bills of lading are very customary, and have been upheld in a
multitude of cases. We cite a few: Central Vermont Railroad v.
59 F. 879; Ginn v. Ogdensburg Transit Co.,
F. 985; Cox v. Central Vermont Railroad,
170 Mass. 129;
North British &c. Insurance Co. v. Central Vermont
9 App.Div. 4, aff'd,
158 N.Y. 726. Before
the Texas and Missouri statutes forbidding such special contracts,
short limitations in bills of lading were held to be valid and
enforceable. McCarty v. Gulf &c. Ry.,
79 Tex. 33;
Thompson v. Chicago &c. Ry.,
22 Mo.App. 321.
cases to same effect cited in 6 Cyc. p. 508. The
provision requiring suit to be brought within ninety days is not
For the errors indicated, the judgment must be reversed for such
further proceedings as may be consistent with this opinion.
MR. JUSTICE HUGHES concurs in the result. MR. JUSTICE PITNEY
"Mr. Head: We offer the following portions of I.C.C. tariff No.
A-1636, M.K. & T. Local Distance Tariff No. 2548, applying on
classes and commodities:"
"MISSOURI, KANSAS & TEXAS RAILWAY CO."
"THE "KATY" ROUTE"
"Local Distance Tariff No. 2548"
"(Cancels No. 737)"
"Applying on classes and commodities between stations on the
Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. as follows:"
"Between stations in And stations in"
"Indian territory Oklahoma territory"
"Missouri or Kansas Indiana territory"
"Missouri or Kansas Oklahoma territory"
"And locally between stations in the Indiana or Oklahoma
"Rates in Cents Per 100 lbs."
"CATTLE (See Rule 3.)"
"Distance Commodities Carloads"
"380 miles and over 370. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 1/2"
"LIVESTOCK -- Continued"
"Limitation of liability.
-- Rates provided on
livestock will apply only on shipments made at owner's risk, with
limitation of liability on the part of the railroad company as
common carrier under the terms and conditions of the current
livestock contract provided by this company, the contract to be
first duly executed in manner and form provided therein."
"120 percent of the rates named in this tariff will be charged
on shipments made without limitations of carrier's liability at
common law, and under this status, shippers will have the choice of
executing and accepting contracts for shipments of livestock with
or without limitation of liability, the rates to be made as
provided for herein."