LOUISIANA & W. R. CO. v. GARDINER(1927)
[273 U.S. 280, 281] Messrs. Harry McCall, of New Orleans, La., Philip S. Pugh, of Crowley, La., and George Denegre, Victor Leovy, Henry H. Chaffe, and James Hy. Bruns, all of New Orleans, La., for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
After the record came here under writ of error the railroad company presented a petition for certiorari. The cause is reviewable by certiorari, and the application therefor is granted. The writ of error will be dismissed.
April 3, 1920, the petitioner received from respondent Gardiner at Crowley, La., various articles consigned to himself at Murray, Ky., and issued to him two bills of lading which contained this clause:
The goods were delivered at Murray in bad condition April 15, 1920. He sued to recover for the damage in a Louisiana state court, April 12, 1922. The company success- [273 U.S. 280, 282] fully relied upon the local statute of limitation:
The Court of Appeal declared:
And it accordingly held the plea of prescription insufficient, reversed the judgment of the trial court, and remanded the cause for further proceedings.
On the second trial judgment went for respondent for the full amount claimed. The Court of Appeal reduced this by the amount of the company's claim for an undercharge and the war tax. The Supreme Court refused a writ of certiorari.
Petitioner maintains that the federal statutes prescribe no limitation and that the state law controls. We think this is the correct view. The court below wrongly construed the federal statutes.
The Carmack Amendment to the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906, c. 3591, 7, 34 Stat. 584, 595, added the following provision to section 20, Act to Regulate Commerce Feb. 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379, 386:
This court held that bills of lading for interstates shipments issued after the Carmack Amendment must be construed according to rules approved by the federal courts and upheld provisions therein which required claims to be filed within any specified time if reasonable. Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 505 , 33 S. Ct. 148, 44 L. R. A. ( N. S.) 257; Missouri, Kansas & Texas R. Co. v. Harriman, 227 U.S. 657, 672 , 33 S. Ct. 397; Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. v. Harris, 234 U.S. 412, 420 , 34 S. Ct. 790, L. R. A. 1915E, 942; Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Harold, 241 U.S. 371, 377 , 378 S., 36 S. Ct. 665; St. Louis, I. M. & S. R. Co. v. Starbird, 243 U.S. 592, 604 , 37 S. Ct. 462; Erie R. Co. v. Shuart, 250 U.S. 465, 467 , 39 S. Ct. 519; American Ry. Exp. Co. v. Levee, 263 U.S. 19, 21 , 44 S. Ct. 11.
The Cummins Amendment of March 4, 1915, c. 176, 38 Stat. 1196, 1197, modified the Carmack Amendment and directed:
Transportation Act 1920, c. 91, 41 Stat. 456, 494, provides:
The bills of lading issued by petitioner undertook to restrict the institution of suits for loss to two years and one day after delivery of the property. This restriction does not accord with the Transportation Act which declared unlawful any limitation shorter than two years from the time notice is given of the disallowance of the claim, and is therefore ineffective. See Chicago & N. W. R. Co. v. Bewsher (C. C. A.) 6 F.(2d) 947. But neither the above-quoted provision from the Cummins Amendment nor the one from the Transportation Act was intended to operate as a statute of limitation. They restricted the freedom of carriers to fix the period within which suit could be brought-prohibited contracts for any shorter period than the one specified.
Here, although the rights of the parties depended upon instruments the meaning and effect of which must be determined according to rules approved by the federal courts, there was no federal statute of limitations and the local one applied. Campbell v. Haverhill, 155 U.S. 610, 613 , 15 S. Ct. 217 et seq.; Chattanooga Foundry, etc., v. Atlanta, 203 U.S. 390, 397 , 27 S. Ct. 65; Meeker v. Lehigh Valley R. Co., 236 U.S. 412, 423 , 35 S. Ct. 328, Ann. Cas. 1916B, 691.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal must be reversed, and the cause will be remanded there for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.