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SOUTHERN RY. CO. V. PRESCOTT, 240 U. S. 632 (1916)

U.S. Supreme Court

Southern Ry. Co. v. Prescott, 240 U.S. 632 (1916)

Southern Railway Company v. Prescott

No. 358

Argued February 23, 1916

Decided April 10, 1916

240 U.S. 632


Whether the contract based on a bill of lading of an interstate shipment issued pursuant to the Act to Regulate Commerce has been discharged is a federal question.

Transportation, as regulated by the Act to Regulate Commerce, includes the services of a connecting carrier as warehouseman of the goods after arrival at point of destination and before actual delivery to the consignee.

Retention by the carrier of part of an interstate shipment, after arrival at destination, notice to, and payment of the freight by, the consignee held in this case to be a terminal service forming part of the transportation in the sense of, and governed by, the Act to Regulate Commerce.

With respect to service governed by the Act to Regulate Commerce, the rule that both carrier and shipper are bound by, and cannot alter, the terms of service as fixed by the filed regulations applies

Page 240 U. S. 633

not only to rates, but also to other stipulations relating to services and facilities within the purview of the act, including liability as warehouseman after arrival of the goods at destination and before removal by the consignee.

The contract of a bill of lading of an interstate shipment is still in force until actual delivery to the consignee, and held that the mere giving of a receipt by the consignee and payment of freight but leaving the goods with the carrier did not, in this case, amount to actual delivery and affect the liability of the carrier under the stipulations as to liability contained in the bill of lading.

The measure of liability of a carrier of an interstate shipment under the bill of lading issued pursuant to the Act to Regulate Commerce is a federal question, and the obligation is to be governed under the Act by uniform rule in the place of the diverse requirements of state legislation and decisions; nor is the question less a federal one because resolved by application of general principles of common law.

Under a stipulation in a bill of lading of an interstate shipment that the carrier shall be liable, as warehouseman only, for goods after arrival at destination and not removed within the specified time, the carrier is liable only for negligence, and if the loss admittedly occurs by fire, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove negligence, notwithstanding the rule may be different under state law.

99 S.C. 422 reversed.

The facts, which involve the liability of an interstate carrier as warehouseman of goods after arrival at destination, are stated in the opinion.

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