A stipulation in the Uniform Live Stock Contract, filed by the
carrier with the Interstate Commerce Commission, limiting the
carrier's liability for unusual delay and detention caused by its
own negligence to the amount actually expended by the shipper in
the purchase of food and water for the stock while so detained, is
illegal, and is not binding on a shipper who executed the contract
and shipped under it for the corresponding reduced tariff rate.
Such a stipulation contravenes the principle that the carrier
Page 246 U. S. 440
exonerate itself from losses caused by its own negligence, and
is not within the principle of limiting liability to an agreed
valuation which has been made the basis of a reduced rate. Illegal
conditions and limitations in a carrier's bill of lading do not
gain validity from the filing of a form containing them with the
Interstate Commerce Commission.
90 Vt. 176 affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 246 U. S. 442
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This suit was brought by Piper against the Boston & Maine
Railroad to recover damages for loss occasioned by delay in
delivering cattle as a result of the company's negligence. The
plaintiff recovered damages, and the judgment was affirmed by the
Supreme Court of Vermont. 90 Vt. 176.
The plaintiff shipped the cattle upon paying the reduced rate
for shipment thereof under the Uniform Live Stock Agreement
containing, among other things, the following:
"The same has been received by said carrier for itself and on
behalf of connecting carriers for transportation subject to
official tariffs, classifications, and rules of the said company
and upon the following terms and conditions which are admitted and
accepted by the said shipper as just and reasonable. . . . That, in
the event of any unusual delay or detention of said livestock
caused by the negligence of said carrier or its employees or its
connecting carriers or their employees or otherwise, the said
shipper agrees to accept as full compensation for all loss or
damage sustained thereby the amount actually expended by said
shipper in the purchase of food and water for said stock while so
detained. . . . And E. G. Piper does hereby acknowledge that he had
the option of shipping the above-described livestock at a higher
rate of freight according to the official tariffs, classifications,
and rules of the said carrier and connecting carriers, and thereby
receiving the security of the liability of the said carrier and
connecting railroad and transportation companies as common carriers
of the said livestock upon their respective roads and lines, but
has voluntarily decided to ship same under this contract at the
reduced rate of freight above first mentioned."
The tariffs in effect at the time the shipment moved
Page 246 U. S. 443
provided for a rate of $42 when the Uniform Live Stock Agreement
was signed, and that:
"Livestock will be taken at the reduced rates fixed in the
tariff only when a uniform livestock contract is executed by the
station agent and the consignor, and when the release on the back
of said contract is executed by man or men who are to accompany
said livestock. If consignor refuses to execute a uniform livestock
contract, the livestock will be charged ten (10) percent higher
than the reduced rates specified herein, provided that in no case
shall such higher charge be less than one (1) percent per one
The company's tariffs were duly filed with the Interstate
Commerce Commission, and contained a copy of the Uniform Live Stock
Contract as above set forth.
Interstate shipments of the character here in controversy made
upon bills of lading, and under tariffs filed with the Interstate
Commerce Commission, have been the subject of frequent
consideration in this Court. The binding character of the
stipulations of the bill of lading and of the rates as fixed in the
filed tariffs have been recognized and enforced. St. Louis,
Iron Mountain & Southern Ry. Co. v. Starbird, 243 U.
, and previous cases in this Court therein
The Carmack Amendment requires the initial carrier to issue a
bill of lading, and carriers are obliged to carry the articles
shipped at the rates fixed in the published tariffs. Many decisions
of this Court have held that the carrier may offer to the shipper
and the shipper may be bound by a contract which limits recovery to
a valuation declared by the shipper in consideration of the reduced
rate for the carriage of the freight. This rule was stated in an
early case arising after the passage of the Carmack Amendment.
Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.
, 226 U. S.
-510, and has been frequently reiterated since.
In the cases in which the recovery for the lesser valuation
Page 246 U. S. 444
has been affirmed, the shipper was offered an opportunity to
recover a greater sum than the declared value upon paying a higher
rate to the carrier. The shipper was offered alternative recoveries
based upon different valuations upon the payment of different
rates, and was held bound by the one chosen. Such contracts of
shipment this Court has held not to be in contravention of the
settled principles of the common law preventing a carrier from
contracting against liability for losses resulting from its own
negligence, and are lawful limitations upon the amount of recovery
binding upon the shipper upon principles of estoppel. Hart v.
Pennsylvania R. Co., 112 U. S. 331
followed and approved since the passage of the Carmack Amendment in
Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, supra, and see Wells Fargo
& Co. v. Neiman-Marcus Co., 227 U.
; Kansas City Southern R. Co. v. Carl,
227 U. S. 657
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R. Co. v. Cramer,
232 U. S. 490
Boston & Maine R. Co. v. Hooker, 233 U. S.
; Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v.
Robinson, 233 U. S. 173
Furthermore, it has been held that a low valuation will not prevent
the application of the rulemaking the agreement binding upon the
shipper. Pierce Co. v. Wells Fargo & Co., 236 U.
, 236 U. S.
While the rule of the lesser recovery based upon lesser rates
when the shipper has been given the option of higher recovery upon
paying a higher rate has been held binding upon the shipper so long
as the published tariff remains in force, this Court has not held a
bill of lading containing a limitation against liability for loss
caused by the carrier's negligence, such as is here involved, to be
conclusive of the shipper's right to recover. In the previous
decisions of this Court upon the subject, it has been said that the
limited valuation for which a recovery may be had does not permit
the carrier to defeat recovery because of losses arising from its
own negligence, but serves
Page 246 U. S. 445
to fix the amount of recovery upon an agreed valuation made in
consideration of the lower rate stipulated to be paid for the
In the bill of lading now under consideration, there is an
express agreement limiting liability from unusual delay and
detention caused by the carrier's negligence to the amount actually
expended by the shipper in the purchase of food and water for his
stock while so detained. This stipulation contravenes the principle
that the carrier may not exonerate itself from losses negligently
caused by it, and is not within the principle of limiting liability
to an agreed valuation which has been made the basis of a reduced
freight rate. Such stipulations as are here involved are not legal
limitations upon the amount of recovery, but are in effect attempts
to limit the carrier's liability for negligence by a contract which
leaves practically no recovery for damages resulting from such
negligence. While this provision was in the bill of lading, the
form of which was filed with the railroad company's tariffs with
the Interstate Commerce Commission, it gains nothing from that
fact. The legal conditions and limitations in the carrier's bill of
lading duly filed with the Commission are binding until changed by
that body (Kansas Southern Ry. v. Carl, 227 U.
, 227 U. S.
), but not so of conditions and limitations which
are, as is this one, illegal, and consequently void.
We find no error in the judgment of the Supreme Court of
Vermont, and the same is