Where the state court, by its ruling, denies the carrier the
benefit of the Interstate Commerce Act, a compliance wherewith was
set up in the pleadings and supported by testimony, this Court has
jurisdiction to review under § 237, Judicial Code.
The effect of the Carmack Amendment was to give to federal
jurisdiction control over interstate commerce and to make federal
legislation regulating liability for property transported by common
carriers in interstate commerce exclusive.
The shipper, as well as the carrier, is bound to take notice of
the filed tariff rates, and so long as they remain operative, they
are, in the absence of attempts at rebating or false billing,
conclusive as to the rights of the parties. Great Northern Ry.
v. O'Connor, 232 U. S. 508
An oral agreement cannot be given a prevailing effect which will
be contrary to the filed schedules. To do so would open the door to
special contracts and defeat the primary purpose of the Interstate
Commerce Act to require equal treatment of all shippers and the
charging to all of but one rate, and that the rate filed as
required by the act.
36 Okl. 435 reversed.
The facts, which involve the construction of the Hepburn Act and
of the Carmack Amendment, are stated in the opinion.
Page 233 U. S. 176
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
The defendant in error, plaintiff below, and herein so
designated, brought suit in the District Court of Lincoln County,
Oklahoma, to recover for damages to a racehorse, the property of
the plaintiff, which was shipped with
Page 233 U. S. 177
other racehorses from Kansas City, Missouri, to Lawrence,
Kansas. Upon verdict in favor of the plaintiff, judgment was
entered accordingly, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court of
Oklahoma (36 Okl. 435).
The plaintiff alleged that the contract of consignment was a
verbal one, made by calling up the agent of the railway company at
Kansas City by telephone on the day the shipment was made, advising
him that the plaintiff had race horses which he desired to ship to
Lawrence in time for the races next day; that he was informed by
the agent that such shipment could be made, and that, if the horses
could be loaded between four and six o'clock of that afternoon,
they would be carried by the fast freight known as the "Red Ball,"
making no stops for local freight, and reaching Lawrence about
twelve o'clock that night; that it was agreed between them that the
shipment should be made by that train; that the plaintiff was
instructed where to bring the horses, and informed that a car would
be placed to receive them, and that the horses were taken to the
place designated by the agent, loaded into a car between five and
six o'clock in the afternoon, the car being closed and labeled "Red
Ball," meaning that it should go with the "Red Ball" train on that
evening. The car was not taken out that night, and there was
testimony tending to show that it was switched about in the yard
and on the next morning was started with local freight to Lawrence,
arriving there about two o'clock next day, too late for the races.
And there was evidence that the horse of the plaintiff had been
badly injured through the negligence of the defendant.
By an amended answer, the railway company set up the fact that
the shipment was in interstate commerce, and the filing and
approval by the Interstate Commerce Commission of certain tariff
rates duly posted, as required by the act, wherein it was
"(A) Rates named in section two apply on shipments
Page 233 U. S. 178
of ordinary livestock, where contracts are executed by shippers
on blanks furnished by these companies, and are based on the
declared valuation by the shipper at time contract is signed, not
to exceed the following:"
"Each horse or pony (gelding, mare, stallion), mule or jack,
$100.00. Each ox, bull, or steer, $50.00. Each cow, $30.00. Each
calf, $10.00. Each hog, $10.00. Each sheep or goat, $3.00."
"(B) Where the declared value exceeds the above, an addition of
twenty-five percent will be added to the rate for each one hundred
percent or fractional part thereof of additional declared valuation
per head. Animals exceeding in value $800.00 per head will be taken
only by special arrangement."
"(C) Table of rates named will be charged on shipments of
livestock made with limitation of company's liability at common
law, and under this status, shippers will have the choice of
executing or accepting contracts for shipments of livestock with or
without limitation of liability and rates accordingly,"
and alleged that the shipper obtained the benefit of the reduced
rate applicable to the value fixed in the written contract
governing the shipment of horses, that the shipment was made under
the tariffs so filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission, and
that the rates and liability of the company were governed by the
act of Congress. The plaintiff contended that the complete contract
was made in the oral arrangement without reference to or mention of
any particular rate or the value of the stock other than that it
was a racehorse. Taking the most favorable view of the testimony
for the plaintiff, it tended to show that, after the car had
started from the place of loading, an agent of the company
presented to the plaintiff a printed contract made in conformity to
the schedules filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission, but
without calling his attention to its provisions, without
Page 233 U. S. 179
informing him of its contents, and without procuring his assent
to the terms therein stated, although he admitted executing the
The trial court charged the jury over the exception of the
railway company that if they found that, at the time of the
shipment, the contract was entered into by the plaintiff and the
defendant, and that the plaintiff represented to the defendant that
the horse did not exceed $100 in value, and that the defendant
relied upon the representation, and gave a rate less than the
regular one for that class of shipment, and was misled by such
misrepresentation, and induced to fix a lower rate than the regular
one, and if they found the defendant guilty of negligence, they
were limited in their findings to the sum of $100; but that, if
they found that the representation was not made by the plaintiff,
but was arbitrarily inserted by defendant, or printed in its
contract when signed, then the plaintiff was not bound by the
limitation, and they should find his actual damages. The jury
rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $1,500.
Upon writ of error to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, that court
affirmed the judgment rendered in the district court and held:
"Where a shipment of livestock is made under a verbal contract,
and where every move made, every step taken toward a shipment, up
to and including a complete consignment and surrender of control by
the shipper, the starting in transit of the shipment, and the
assumption of liability for negligence by the carrier, is all under
and pursuant to such parol agreement, and after this a printed
shipping contract is presented to the shipper to sign, he has the
right to assume that it embodies the terms of the verbal agreement,
and the carrier will not be permitted to escape liabilities
accruing to the shipper under the verbal agreement by reason of
certain provisions in the written contract at variance with the
Page 233 U. S. 180
unless the shipper's attention has been called to such
provisions and fair opportunity given him to assent to same."
It is thus seen that the defendant specially set up a defense
under the Interstate Commerce Act, a federal statute, which, if
denied to him, was an adverse ruling of federal right which would
warrant the bringing of the case to this Court from the highest
court of a state under former § 709 of the Revised Statutes of the
United States, now § 237 of the Judicial Code. It is apparent from
the foregoing statement that the federal question now presented
involves the ruling of the state court denying to the carrier the
benefit of the Interstate Commerce Act, a compliance with which was
set up in the amended answer and supported by testimony tending to
show the truth of the allegations thereof.
That the effect of the Carmack Amendment to the Hepburn Act (§
7, Act of June 29, 1906, 34 Stat. 584, c. 3591) was to give to the
federal jurisdiction control over interstate commerce, and to make
supreme the federal legislation regulating liability for property
transported by common carriers in interstate commerce, has been so
recently and repeatedly decided in this Court as to require now
little more than a reference to some of the cases. Kansas City
Southern Ry. Co. v. Carl, 227 U. S. 639
Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co. v. Harriman,
227 U. S. 657
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Cramer,
232 U. S. 490
Great Northern Ry. Co. v. O'Connor, 232 U.
. We regard these cases as settling the
proposition that the shipper as well as the carrier is bound to
take notice of the filed tariff rates, and that, so long as they
remain operative they are conclusive as to the rights of the
parties, in the absence of facts or circumstances showing an
attempt at rebating or false billing. Great Northern Ry. Co. v.
To give to the oral agreement upon which the
suit was brought, the prevailing
Page 233 U. S. 181
effect allowed in this case by the charge in the trial court,
affirmed by the judgment of the supreme court of the state, would
be to allow a special contract to have binding force and effect
though made in violation of the filed schedules which were to be
equally observed by the shipper and carrier. If oral agreements of
this character can be sustained, then the door is open to all
manner of special contracts, departing from the schedules and rates
filed with the Commission, Kansas City Southern Ry. Co. v.
p. 227 U. S. 652
To maintain the supremacy of such oral agreements would defeat the
primary purposes of the Interstate Commerce Act, so often affirmed
in the decisions of this Court, which are to require equal
treatment of all shippers and the charging of but one rate to all,
and that the one filed as required by the act.
The supreme court of the state in this case affirmed the
instruction of the trial court upon which the case was given to the
jury, and held that the oral contract was binding unless it was
affirmatively shown that the written agreement, based upon the
filed schedules, was brought to the knowledge of the shipper, and
its terms assented to by him. This ruling ignored the terms of
shipment set forth in the schedules and permitted recovery upon the
contract made in violation thereof in a case where there was no
proof that there was an attempt to violate the published rates by a
fraudulent agreement showing rebating or false billing of the
property, and no circumstances which would take the case out of the
rulings heretofore made by this Court as to the binding effect of
such filed schedules and the duty of the shipper to take notice of
the terms of such rates, and the obligation to be bound thereby, in
the absence of the exceptional circumstances to which we have
It follows that the ruling of the state court, affirmed in the
supreme court, deprived the plaintiff in error of rights secured by
the federal statute, when properly
Page 233 U. S. 182
construed, which were set up and claimed in the state court.
Judgment reversed and case remanded for further proceedings
not inconsistent with this opinion.
MR. JUSTICE PITNEY dissents.