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United States Supreme Court

CHICAGO, B. & Q. RY. CO. v. MILLER(1913)

No. 17

Argued: October 22, 1912Decided: January 6, 1913

Messrs. Arthur R. Wells and Robert B. Scott for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Edwin E. Squires, H. M. Sullivan, and Norris Brown for defendant in error.

[226 U.S. 513, 517]  

Mr. Justice Lurton delivered the opinion of the court:

The question in this case, as in Adams Exp. Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491 , 57 L. ed. --, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 148, Just decided, is whether the provisions of 20 of the act of February 4, 1887 [24 Stat. at L. 386, chap. 104], as amended by the act of June 29, 1906 (34 Stat. at L. 584, chap. 3591, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1911, p. 1288), constitute an exclusive regulation of contracts for interstate shipments of property by railroad common carriers, superseding all state regulations upon the same subject.

The action in this case was to recover the full value of a stallion shipped from a point in Iowa to a point in Nebraska, under a valued live- stock contract. The loss occurred in the state of Nebraska through the negligence of the carrier, and the suit was in a court of that state.

The receipt or bill of lading placed a value upon the animal of $100, and was signed by the shipper's agent. It recited that the schedules of rates and regulations filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission provide alternative rates of charges proportioned to the value of the stock delivered for transportation, as declared by the shipper, and that the recovery of the shipper in case of loss or injury should not be in excess of the value thus agreed upon for the purpose of determining the rate.

The plaintiff's claim that the stallion was in fact of the value of $ 2,000, and that the limitation of recovery stipulated is void under a statute of Iowa, where the contract was made, and also illegal and invalid under a clause in the Constitution of Nebraska, the state in which the loss occurred, and of the forum.

The company relies upon the provisions of the act of 1906 as an exclusive rule regulating every contract for an interstate shipment, and declaring the liability of the carrier, and contends that the regulations provided by the 7th section of that act operate to supersede the legislation of both Iowa and Nebraska, in so far as they applied to interstate shipments. [226 U.S. 513, 518]   This defense was overruled in the trial court, and the agreement in the plaintiff's bill of lading, limiting any recovery in case of loss or damage, to the value declared for the purpose of obtaining the lower or alternative rate of freight, was held to be illegal, both under the law of Iowa and Nebraska, and judgment was rendered for the full value of the animal. This judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of Nebraska, that court ruling that the case was controlled by the state regulations referred to, and that these regulations had not been superseded by acts of Congress regulating interstate commerce. For this the court cited and relied upon certain decisions by the Nebraska courts, and the cases of Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co. v. Solan, 169 U.S. 133 , 42 L. ed. 688, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 289, and Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Hughes, 191 U.S. 477 , 48 L. ed. 268, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 132. Both of the cases decided by this court were decided prior to the extensive amendment of the act regulating interstate commerce of 1887 by the act of June 29, 1906.

In Adams Exp. Co. v. Croninger, supra, we reached the conclusion that by the provisions of the 7th section of the latter act, Congress had manifested a purpose to take possession of the subject of the liability of a carrier by railroad for interstate shipments, and that the regulations therein had superseded all state regulations upon the same subject. This case is therefore controlled by that judgment.

It follows that the supreme court of Nebraska erred in applying to the contract here involved the provisions of the Iowa statute, and of the Constitution of the state of Nebraska, and in refusing to apply the exclusive regulation prescribed by the 7th section of the act of 1906, as that provision has been construed by this court in the Croninger Case, above referred to.

The judgment is accordingly reversed, and remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

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