The duty of a carrier to furnish cars for coal to be loaded at
the mine and forwarded promptly for delivery to purchasers in other
states is a duty in interstate commerce, notwithstanding the sale
of the coal is f.o.b. at the mine.
If no administrative question is involved, a claim for damages
for failure, upon reasonable request, to furnish to a shipper in
interstate commerce cars sufficient to meet his needs may be
enforced in a state as well as a federal court, and without
preliminary finding by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Such remedy is preserved by § 22 of the Interstate Commerce Act.
The modes of redress provided by §§ 8 and 9 are not exclusive.
Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Puritan Coal Co., 237 U.
Where relevant conditions of trade and transportation are
normal, it is the duty of the carrier, upon reasonable demand, to
furnish a shipper in interstate commerce sufficient cars to satisfy
the actual needs of his business. That duty, in this case, existed
under the common law until the date of the Hepburn Act, and
continued thereafter under a provision of that act which, so far as
concerns this case, amounts to an adoption of the common law. Act
of June 29, 1906, § 1, c. 3591, 34 Stat. 584.
Page 242 U. S. 121
It is only in times of car shortage resulting from unusual
demands or other abnormal conditions, not reasonably to have been
foreseen, that car distribution rules originating with the carrier
can be regarded as qualifying or affecting the right of a shipper
to demand and receive cars commensurate in number with his needs.
Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Puritan Coal Co., supra.
Evidence that, throughout the period covered by alleged failures
to supply cars, many cars of the carrier which otherwise would have
been available to shippers on the carrier's lines were on the lines
of other railroad companies as the result of through routings and
joint rates has no tendency to prove that the carrier supplied the
complaining shipper with the cars to which he was entitled, or to
mitigate its default in that regard.
241 Pa.St. 487 affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The coal company brought this action to recover damages from the
railroad company upon two grounds: first, that, for a period of
four years, beginning April 1, 1903, the railroad company had
failed to supply the coal company with a sufficient number of cars
to meet the needs of the latter's coal mine, and second, that,
during the same period, the railroad company, in furnishing cars to
the several mines in that district, had discriminated unjustly
against the coal company and in favor of some of its competitors.
The second ground was eliminated by the coal company at the trial,
and does not require further notice. The action was begun in a
state court, and resulted in a
Page 242 U. S. 122
judgment for the coal company for $145,830.25, which the supreme
court of the state affirmed. 241 Pa. 487.
The questions presented by the several assignments of error are:
(1) what was the nature of the commerce involved?; (2) if the
commerce was interstate, was the action cognizable in a state
court?; (3) was prejudicial error committed in excluding evidence
presently to be mentioned?
The coal company sold its coal f.o.b. cars at the mine, and,
when the cars were loaded, the coal was promptly forwarded to the
purchasers at points within and without the state, largely to
points in other states. This was well understood by both companies
-- by the coal company when it asked for cars, and by the railroad
company when it supplied them. Cars were not requested or furnished
merely to be used in holding or storing coal, but always to be
employed in its immediate transportation. While furnishing some
cars for this service, the railroad company failed to furnish as
many as the coal company needed and requested. It is plain that
supplying the requisite cars was an essential step in the intended
movement of the coal, and a part of the commerce -- whether
interstate or intrastate -- to which that movement belonged. It was
expressly so held in Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Clark Coal
Co., 238 U. S. 456
238 U. S.
-468. We there said of the sale and delivery of coal
f.o.b. at the mine for transportation to purchasers in other
states: "The movement thus initiated is an interstate movement, and
the facilities required are facilities of interstate commerce."
Here, the state court ruled that, as the coal was sold f.o.b. at
the mine, the commerce involved was intrastate, even though the
coal was going to purchasers outside the state. This was error, but
it plainly was without prejudice unless it led the state court to
exercise a jurisdiction which it did not possess.
In the courts below, the railroad company contended that,
insofar as the commerce involved was interstate,
Page 242 U. S. 123
the action could not be entertained by a state court
consistently with the Interstate Commerce Act, c. 104, 24 Stat.
379, and that contention is renewed here. It proceeds upon the
theory, first, that the coal company was without any right to
redress in respect of its interstate business unless the failure to
supply it with the requisite cars was a violation of some provision
of that act; second, that §§ 8 and 9 of the act prescribe the only
modes of obtaining redress for violations of its provisions; and,
third, that an action for damages in a state court is not among the
It is true that §§ 8 and 9 deal with the redress of injuries
resulting from violations of the act, and give the person injured a
right either to make complaint to the Interstate Commerce
Commission or to bring an action for damages in a federal court,
but not to do both. If the act said nothing more on the subject, it
well may be that no action for damages resulting from a violation
of the act could be entertained by a state court. But the act shows
that §§ 8 and 9 do not completely express the will of Congress as
respects the injuries for which redress may be had or the modes in
which it may be obtained, for § 22 contains this important
"Nothing in this act contained shall in any way abridge or alter
the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the
provisions of this act are in addition to such remedies."
The three sections, if broadly construed, are not altogether
harmonious, and yet it evidently is intended that all shall be
operative. Only by reading them together and in connection with the
act as a whole can the real purpose of each be seen. They often
have been considered, and what they mean has become pretty well
settled. Thus, we have held that a manifest purpose of the
provision in § 22 is to make it plain that such "appropriate common
law and statutory remedies" as can be enforced consistently with
the scheme and purpose of the act are not abrogated or
Page 242 U. S. 124
displaced, Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Abilene Cotton Oil
Co., 204 U. S. 426
204 U. S.
-447; that this provision is not intended to nullify
other parts of the act, or to defeat rights or remedies given by
earlier sections, but to preserve all existing rights not
inconsistent with those which the act creates, Pennsylvania R.
Co. v. Puritan Coal Mining Co., 237 U.
, 237 U. S. 129
that the act does not supersede the jurisdiction of state courts in
any case, new or old, where the decision does not involve the
determination of matters calling for the exercise of the
administrative power and discretion of the Interstate Commerce
Commission, or relate to a subject as to which the jurisdiction of
the federal courts is otherwise made exclusive (ibid.,
237 U. S.
); that claims for damages arising out of the
application, in interstate commerce, of rules for distributing cars
in times of shortage call for the exercise of the administrative
authority of the Commission where the rule is assailed as unjustly
discriminatory, but, where the assault is not against the rule, but
against its unequal and discriminatory application, no
administrative question is presented, and the claim may be
prosecuted in either a federal or a state court without any
precedent action by the Commission (ibid., 237 U. S.
-132), and that, if no administrative question be
involved, as well may be the case, a claim for damages for failing
upon reasonable request to furnish to a shipper in interstate
commerce a sufficient number of cars to satisfy his needs may be
enforced in either a federal or a state court without any
preliminary finding by the Commission, and this whether the
carrier's default was a violation of its common law duty existing
prior to the Hepburn Act of 1906, or of the duty prescribed by that
act, * ibid.,
237 U. S.
-135; Eastern R. Co. v. Littlefield,
237 U. S. 140
237 U. S. 143
Illinois Central R. Co. v.
Page 242 U. S. 125
Hill Coal Co., 238 U. S. 275
238 U. S. 283
Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Clark Coal Co., 238 U.
, 238 U. S.
Applying these rulings to the case in hand, we are of opinion
that a state court could entertain the action consistently with the
Interstate Commerce Act. Not only does the provision in § 22 make
strongly for this conclusion, but a survey of the scheme of the act
and of what it is intended to accomplish discloses no real support
for the opposing view. With the charge of unjust discrimination
eliminated, the ground upon which a recovery was sought was that,
for a period of four years, during which the conditions were
normal, the carrier had failed, upon reasonable demand, to supply
to a shipper in interstate commerce a sufficient number of cars to
transport the output of the latter's coal mine. Assuming that the
conditions were normal and the demand reasonable, it was the duty
of the carrier to have furnished the cars. That duty arose from the
common law up to the date of the amendatory statute of 1906, known
as the Hepburn Act, and thereafter from a provision in that act
which, for present purposes, may be regarded as merely adopting the
common law rule. There was evidence tending to show, and the jury
found, that the conditions in the coal trade were normal, and the
demand for the cars reasonable. Indeed, without objection from the
carrier, the court said, when charging the jury, "[t]here is no
testimony disputing the claim of the plaintiff that these were
normal times." The carrier insisted, and the jury found, that the
carrier had a generally ample car supply for the needs of the coal
traffic under normal conditions, and the jury further found that
the failure to furnish the cars demanded was without justifiable
excuse. Thus far, it is apparent that no administrative question
was involved -- nothing which the act intends shall be passed upon
Page 242 U. S. 126
Commission either to the exclusion of the courts or as a
necessary condition to judicial action.
But there was testimony tending to show that the carrier was
applying or following a rule for allotting cars which did not
entitle the coal company to receive as many cars as it needed and
requested, and, because of this, it is contended that the
reasonableness of this rule was in issue, and was an administrative
question which the act intends that the Commission shall solve. We
cannot accede to the contention. The conditions in the coal trade
being normal, as just shown, the number of cars to which the coal
company was entitled was to be measured by its reasonable requests
based upon its actual needs. It is only in times of car shortage
resulting from unusual demands or other abnormal conditions, not
reasonably to have been foreseen, that car distribution rules
originating with the carrier can be regarded as qualifying or
affecting the right of a shipper to demand and receive cars
commensurate in number with his needs. Pennsylvania R. Co. v.
Puritan Coal Co., 237 U. S. 121
237 U. S. 133
Such a rule being inapplicable in the conditions existing at the
time, the rule mentioned in the testimony could not be a factor in
the decision of the case, and whether, in a time of unforeseen car
shortage it would be reasonable or otherwise was not then
Upon the trial, the carrier offered to prove by a witness then
"that, during all of the period of this action, the defendant
had in effect . . . through routes and joint rates to points
outside the State of Pennsylvania on the lines of other common
carriers; that it was obliged to permit cars loaded by its shippers
with bituminous coal consigned to such points outside the State of
Pennsylvania to go through to destination, even when on the lines
of other railroad companies; that, as a result of doing this, it
had continuously throughout the period of this action a large
number of cars off its own lines
Page 242 U. S. 127
and on the lines of other common carriers, which cars would
otherwise have been available for shippers of coal on the railroad
lines of the defendant, and these cars, if not on other railroad
lines, would have increased the equipment available for
distribution to the plaintiff's mine, and would consequently have
diminished the damage which plaintiff claims to have sustained by
reason of the fact that it did not receive more cars than it did
But, on the coal company's objection, the evidence was excluded.
We think the ruling was right. The offer did not point to any
unusual or abnormal condition not reasonably to have been foreseen,
but, on the contrary, to a situation which was described as
continuous throughout the four-year period to which the action
relates. It did not indicate that this condition was even peculiar
to that period, or was caused by an extraordinary volume of coal
traffic or an unusual detention of cars on other lines of railroad,
or that it was other than a normal incident of the coal
transportation in which the carrier was engaged. Without doubt, the
cars of this carrier, when loaded with coal, often went forward to
destinations on the lines of other carriers. It is common knowledge
that coal transportation has been conducted quite generally in this
way for many years. Besides, a carrier extensively engaged in such
transportation from mines along its lines, as this one was,
naturally would expect to have a considerable number of cars on
other lines in the ordinary course of business. Although possibly
having a bearing upon the adequacy of the supply of cars provided
by the carrier for the coal business as a whole -- a matter not
within the contemplation of the offer -- it is certain that what
was proposed to be proved had no tendency to show that the carrier
had supplied to the coal company the number of cars to which it was
entitled, or to mitigate the carrier's default in that regard.
"Sec. 1. . . . and the term 'transportation' shall include cars
and other vehicles and all instrumentalities and facilities of
shipment or carriage . . . , and it shall be the duty of every
carrier subject to the provisions of this Act to provide and
furnish such transportation upon reasonable request therefor, . .
C. 3591, 34 Stat. 584.