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Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Clark Bros. Coal Mining Co., 238 U.S. 456 (1915)

Pennsylvania Railroad Company v.

Clark Brothers Coal Mining Company

No. 290

Argued May 14, 1915

Decided June 21, 1915

238 U.S. 456


The essential character of commerce determines whether it is interstate or intrastate, and not mere billing or the place where title passes.

Where, for the purpose of filling contracts with purchasers in other states, coal is delivered, f.o.b. at the mine for transportation to such purchasers, the movement and the facilities required are those of interstate commerce.

Whether the rule or method of car distribution for mines furnishing coal f.o.b. at the mines for shipment to other states as practiced by a railroad company is unjustly discriminatory is one which the Interstate Commerce Commission has authority to pass upon.

Where the complaint involves an attack upon the rule or method of car distribution practiced by the carrier in distributing cars for interstate shipments, no action is maintainable in any court for damages alleged to have been inflicted thereby until the Commission has made its finding as to the reasonableness of such rules and methods.

Under such conditions, the Interstate Commerce Commission has authority to examine into, and report upon, the amount of damages sustained by a shipper by reason of such discrimination, as rules as to car distribution are within the provision of § 3 of the Act to Regulate Commerce.

Where, as in this case, it appears that the Act to Regulate Commerce has been violated and the requisite ruling as to the unreasonableness of the practice assailed has been made by the Commission, § 9 applies and is exclusive, and the shipper must elect between a proceeding for reparation award before the Commission or a suit in the federal court. He cannot resort to the state court.

After a proceeding before, and award by, the Commission, suit may be brought under § 16 of the act in either a state or a federal court.

The Act to Regulate Commerce governs the shippers no less than it governs the carrier.

Page 238 U. S. 457

Where a shipper goes before the Interstate Commerce Commission with a complaint under that act against a carrier for discrimination on car distribution and secures a finding of illegality of the carrier's violation of the act, and obtains an award, his claim for damages by reason of such violation can be prosecuted only under the Interstate Commerce Act, and a suit cannot be maintained therefor under the state statute, and this is so notwithstanding the fact that the action in the state court is brought before the Commission has made the award.

Penna. R. Co. v. Puritan Coal Co., 237 U. S. 121, and Ill. Cent. R. Co. v. Mulberry Hill Coal Co., ante, p. 238 U. S. 275, distinguished, as in those cases, the shipper had not invoked the jurisdiction of the Commission, attacking the carrier's rule.

241 Pa.St. 515, reversed.

The facts, which involve the right of a shipper of coal to recover damages from a carrier for alleged inadequate and discriminatory car service, and the construction of the statute of Pennsylvania and of the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act applicable thereto, are stated in the opinion.

Page 238 U. S. 458

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