1. When goods moving in interstate commerce upon a through bill
of lading are delivered in bad condition and the evidence shows
that they were sound when received by the initial carrier but does
not affirmatively establish where the loss occurred, there is a
common law presumption, applicable under the Carmack Amendment,
against the delivering carrier, that the injury occurred on the
delivering carrier's line. P. 258 U. S.
2. There is no inconsistency between this rule and the provision
of the Amendment making the initial carrier also liable. P.
258 U. S.
104 Neb. 57 affirmed.
Certiorari to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Nebraska
affirming a judgment against the present petitioner in an action by
the respondent for damages to goods in transitu.
Page 258 U. S. 371
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The respondent Produce Company recovered a judgment against
petitioner, the delivering carrier, for damages to two carloads of
apples transported during November, 1914, upon through bills of
lading over connecting lines from points in New York state to one
in Nebraska. The evidence tended to show that the apples were in
good condition when received by the initial carrier, but were
frozen when delivered at destination. Where the damage occurred was
Petitioner moved for a directed verdict, claiming no recovery
could be had against it without affirmative evidence that it caused
the damage. Having denied this motion, the court instructed the
jury that there was a presumption of damage upon the line of the
last carrier, and the Supreme Court of Nebraska approved the
The single question now presented for consideration is whether,
since the Carmack Amendment, a presumption arises that the injury
occurred on the delivering carrier's line when goods moving in
interstate commerce upon a through bill of lading are delivered in
bad condition and the evidence shows they were sound when received
by the initial carrier, but does not affirmatively establish where
the loss occurred.
It is established doctrine that the rights and liabilities in
respect of damage to goods moving in interstate commerce
Page 258 U. S. 372
under through bills of lading depend upon acts of Congress,
agreements between the parties, and common law principles accepted
and enforced in the federal courts. New York Central &
Hudson River R. Co. v. Beaham, 242 U.
, 242 U. S. 151
While this Court has not expressly approved it, we think the common
law rule, supported both by reason and authority, is correctly
stated in § 1348, Hutchinson on Carriers (3d ed.):
"A connecting carrier who has completed the transportation and
delivered the goods to the consignee in a damaged condition or
deficient in quantity will be held liable in an action for the
damage or deficiency without proof that it was occasioned by his
fault unless he can show that he received them in the condition in
which he has delivered them. The condition and quantity of the
goods when they were delivered to the first of the connecting
carriers being shown, the presumption will arise that they
continued in that condition down to the time of their delivery to
the carrier completing the transportation and making the delivery
to the consignee, and that the injury or loss occurred while they
were in his possession."
Some of the pertinent cases are collected in the note below.
Page 258 U. S. 373
The petitioner insists that this common law rule conflicts with
the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, c. 3591, 34
Stat. 584, 595, [Footnote 2
which requires issuance of a through bill of lading by initial
carrier and declares it liable for damage occurring anywhere along
the route, as interpreted and applied by this Court. But we find no
inconsistency between the amendment or any other federal
legislation and the challenged rule. Properly understood,
Charleston & Western Carolina Ry. Co. v. Varnville
Furniture Co., 237 U. S. 597
especially relied upon, gives no support to the contrary view.
That cause involved the South Carolina statute which imposed a
penalty of $50 upon the carrier for failure to pay within 40 days
for damages suffered by goods transported in interstate commerce.
The opinion expressly states,
"The defendant contended that the law imposing the penalty was
invalid under the Act to Regulate Commerce, especially § 20, as
amended by the Act of June 29, 1906, . . . known as the Carmack
refers to the penalty as "the only matter that we are
considering," and points out that "the state law was not contrived
in aid of the policy of Congress, but to enforce a state policy
differently conceived." As the Supreme Court of South Carolina
sustained the act and permitted
Page 258 U. S. 374
recovery of the penalty, its judgment was necessarily
Here, there is no question of conflict between a state statute
and any federal policy, and nothing in the words of the amendment
indicates a legislative purpose to abrogate the accepted common law
doctrine concerning presumption. The suggestion that, by imposing
additional liability upon the initial carrier, the amendment
provides an adequate remedy for shippers, and thereby removes the
necessity for any presumption against the terminal one and
impliedly abrogates the rule, is unsound. There are adequate
reasons why shippers should have the benefit of both, and we think
Congress so intended.
The judgment of the court below is
MR. JUSTICE CLARKE took no part in the consideration or decision
of this cause.
Smith v. New York Cent. R. Co.,
43 Barb. (N.Y.) 225;
Cote v. N.Y. N.H. & H. R. Co.,
182 Mass. 290;
Laughlin v. Chicago & Northwestern R. Co.,
204; Phila., Balt. & Wash. R. Co. v. Diffendal,
Md. 494; Blumenthal v. Central R. Co.,
88 N.J.L. 254;
Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Naive,
112 Tenn. 239; Colbath
v. Bangor & Aroostook R. Co.,
105 Me. 379; Willett v.
Southern Ry. Co.,
66 S.C. 477.
The following cases hold that the presumption is not in conflict
with the Carmack Amendment: Erisman v. C., B. & Q. Ry.
180 Ia. 759; Glassman v. C., R.I. & P. Ry.
166 Ia. 255; T. W. Mewborn & Co. v. L. & N.
170 N.C. 205; Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. Co. v.
44 Okl. 41; Eastover Mule Co. v. Atlantic
Coast Line R. Co.,
99 S.C. 470.
"That any common carrier, railroad, or transportation company
receiving property for transportation from a point in one state to
a point in another state shall issue a receipt or bill of lading
therefor and shall be liable to the lawful holder thereof for any
loss, damage, or injury to such property caused by it or by any
common carrier, railroad, or transportation company to which such
property may be delivered or over whose line or lines such property
may pass, and no contract, receipt, rule, or regulation shall
exempt such common carrier, railroad, or transportation company
from the liability hereby imposed: Provided,
in this section shall deprive any holder of such receipt or bill of
lading of any remedy or right of action which he has under existing