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information could be established. The railroad company failed to trace the freight and give the information in writing within the thirty days required by law, wherefore the petitioners averred that the railroad company became indebted to the petitioners to the amount of the damage to the grapes as stated.
The plaintiff in error demurred to the petition, the demurrer was overruled, and it then put in an answer denying many of the allegations of the petition. Upon the trial it appeared that the grapes were shipped from Barnesville, Georgia, to Omaha, Nebraska, and they were “routed” by the shippers over the Central of Georgia, then the Western and Atlantic, then the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis, then the Louisville and Nashville, and then the Wabash Railroads. The initial carrier, the plaintiff in error, issued to the shippers, A. O. Murphey and Hunt, a bill of lading for the carload of grapes, which showed the routing as above stated, and the bill was signed by Murphey and Hunt, as the contract between the plaintiff in error and themselves. It contained a promise "to carry (the grapes) to said destination, if on its road, or to deliver to another carrier on the route to said destination, subject in either instance to the conditions named below, which are agreed to in consideration of the rate named.” Omaha, Nebraska, is not on the road of the plaintiff in error. Paragraph 5 of the bill of lading, under which the shipment of grapes was made, reads as follows:
“5. That the responsibility, either as common carrier or warehouseman, of each carrier over whose line the property shipped hereunder shall be transported, shall cease as soon as delivery is made to the next carrier or to the consignee; and the liability of the said lines contracted with is several and not joint; neither of the said carriers shall be responsible or liable for any act, omission or negligence of the other carriers over whose line said property is or is to be transported."
The grapes were carried under the contract contained in the bill of lading, and arrived at Omaha, in the State of Nebraska, in a damaged condition.
The law under which the action was brought is found in
sections 2317 and 2318 of the Code of Georgia of 1895. Those sections are set forth in full in the margin.
On the twentieth day of August, 1897, the shippers availed themselves of these provisions of the statute, and duly demanded of the plaintiff in error that it should trace the grapes and inform the shippers, in writing, when, how and by which carrier the grapes were damaged, and the names of the parties and their official position, if any, by whom the truth of the facts set out in the information could be established. They also demanded that the information should be furnished within thirty days from the date of the application. The plaintiff in error, although it endeavored so to do, failed to furnish the information within the time mentioned in the statute. It offered to prove on the trial that the car in which the grapes were originally shipped at Barnesville, on the road of the plaintiff in error, reached Atlanta, Georgia, the end of the line of the plaintiff in error, in due time, and that the grapes were then in good order, and the car was promptly delivered to the next connecting line, that is, the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and by that road it was delivered to the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad Company, at Nashville, Tennessee, with the grapes in like good order and condition. The evidence was rejected, the court holding that the plaintiff
Sec. 2317. When any freight that has been shipped, to be conveyed by two or more common carriers to its destination, where, under the contract of shipment or by law, the responsibility of each or either shall cease upon the delivery to the next "in good order” has been lost, damaged or destroyed, it shall be the duty of the initial or any connecting carrier, upon application by the shipper, consignee or their assigns, within thirty days after application, to trace said freight and inform said applicant, in writing, when, where, how and by which carrier said freight was lost, damaged or destroyed, and the names of the parties and their official position, if any, by whom the truth of the facts set out in said information can be established.
Sec. 2318. If the carrier to which application is made shall fail to trace said freight and give said information, in writing, within the time prescribed, then said carrier shall be liable for the value of the freight lost, damaged or destroyed, in the same manner and to the same amount as if said loss, damage or destruction occurred on its line.
Argument for Plaintiff in Error.
in error had failed to comply with the conditions of the statute, and that it was therefore liable for the amount of the damage sustained by the petitioners on whatsoever road the damage actually occurred.
Mr. John I. Hall, with whom Mr. Henry C. Cunningham, Mr. Lloyd Cleveland and Mr. Robert L. Berner were on the brief, for plaintiff in error:
Section 2317 of the Civil Code of Georgia imposes a burden upon the carrier and interferes with its full freedom to contract with shippers with respect to confining its liability to its own line and is void when applied to interstate commerce. Under the Constitution any person, natural or artificial, may engage in interstate commerce. Vance v. Vandercook Co., 170 U. S. 438, 455. The freedom of interstate commerce cannot be affected by state legislation. Welton v. Missouri, 91 U. S. 282; Hall v. De Cuir, 95 U. S. 485; Wabash v. Illinois, 118 U.S. 558; Railroad Co. v. Husen, 95 U. S. 465, 472; W. U. Tel. Co. v. Pendleton, 122 U. S. 347; Fargo v. Michigan, 121 U. S. 230; Richmond R. R. Co. v. Tobacco Co., 24 S. E. Rep. 261, distinguished, and see S. C., 169 U. S. 311. Under $ 2276, Civil Code of Georgia, 1895, a carrier may by express contract limit its liability to its own line. Central R. R. Co. v. Avant, 80 Georgia, 195; Richmond & Danville v. Shomo, 90 Georgia, 496. The requirements of the statute involved are unreasonable and as such interfere with interstate commerce and are void. C., C. & St. L. R. R. v. Minois, 176 U. S. 514, and cases cited.
The statute fixes a liability on the carrier without due process of law. Wallace v. Railway Co., 94 Georgia, 732. An act of legislature which arbitrarily makes one person liable for the debts or responsible for the acts of another would deprive him of due process of law. Camp v. Rogers, 44 Connecticut, 291; Colon v. Lisk, 47 N. E. Rep. (N. Y.) 302; People v. O'Brien, 18 N. E. Rep. (N. Y.) 692; Towle v. H. Mann, 53 Iowa, 42; Ohio R. R. Co. v. Lackey, 78 Illinois, 55; Beilenberg v. Railway Co., 20 Pac. Rep. 314. Nor does the statute permit any defense.
196 U. S.
Argument for Defendants in Error.
Mr. W. W. Lambdin, with whom Mr. Hoke Smith was on the brief, for defendants in error.
Doubts are always resolved in favor of the constitutionality of the statute. The violation must be clear and palpable in order for the statute to be held unconstitutional. Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 6th ed., 216; Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213, 270; Munn v. Iinois, 94 l'. S. 113, 125; Cooper v. Telfair, 4 Dall. 14, 19; Plumley v. Massachusetts, 155 U. S. 461, 479; Cary v. Giles, 9 Georgia, 253, 258.
Under the facts in this case, the shipment of grapes was damaged by the negligence of one of the carriers, which handled the shipment. Central &c. Ry. Co. v. Murphey, 113 Georgia, 514, 520.
The initial carrier having failed to trace the freight and give to the shipper the required information, it became “liable for the value of the freight lost, damaged or destroyed in the same manner, and to the same extent as if said loss, damage or destruction occurred on its own line." The law under the facts in this case imputes the negligence to the defendant company, and makes the same, in effect, its negligence. Code of Georgia
. of 1895, $ 2318; case below, 113 Georgia, 514, 520.
This statute was before the state court in Southern Ry. Co. v. Ragsdale, 119 Georgia, 773, and the ruling made in this case was adhered to. A strong intimation was given in this last case to the effect that if the railroad company should prove that it was impossible for it to trace the freight and give the required information within the time provided, such would be a defense to the action. In the case at bar, however, the court held affirmatively that the facts offered in evidence by the defendant were not sufficient to make out such a defense.
A railroad company is not compelled to make a contract to forward goods beyond its own line. Coles v. Railroad Co., 86 Georgia, 251; A., T. &c. R. R. Co. v. Railroad Co., 110 U. S. 668, 680. But when it receives goods consigned to a point beyond its own line, it undertakes to transport them to their destination, and if the goods are lost or damaged, it will be
Argument for Defendants in Error.
196 U. S.
liable therefor, in the absence of a contract otherwise limiting its liability. Falvey v. Railroad Co., 76 Georgia, 597; Hutchinson on Carriers, 2d ed., $$ 145, 152. However, it may by express contract, limit its liability to its own line. Central Ry. Co. v. Avant, 80 Georgia, 195; R. & D. R. R. Co. v. Shomo, 90 Georgia, 500.
Such being the state of the law in Georgia, and the shipper not being able to hold the carrier with which he dealt liable, on account of the limitations which were put in the contracts of shipment in pursuance of the decisions cited supra and the shipper not being able to discover how or where his goods were damaged, and being thus entirely helpless in the premises, all the avenues of information being closed to him—the legislature of Georgia came to his relief and gave him a remedy by enacting the statute under consideration.
The contract under which the goods were shipped in this case was made in Georgia, and is governed by the laws of that State. Liverpool &c. Co. v. Insurance Co., 129 U. S. 397.
The defendant railroad company “being affected with a public interest,” and being a Georgia corporation, and being clothed with special privileges, is therefore subject to legislative control in the interest of the public. Munn v. Illinois, 94 U. S. 113; Ga. R. R. Co. v. Smith, 128 U. S. 174; Chicago &c. Ry. Co. v. Pullman Car Co., 139 U. S. 79, 90; Smyth v. Ames, 169 U. S. 466, 544.
The statute does not violate the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution, nor does it attempt to regulate interstate commerce. States may, in the exercise of their reserved powers, enact laws which, though they incidentally relate to and affect commerce between the States, yet are not to be considered as regulations of that commerce within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States. Sherlock v. Alling, 93 U. S. 99, 103 ; Peik v. Chicago &c., Ry. Co. et al., 94 U. S. 164; Bagg v. Wilmington &c. Ry.Co., 109 N. Car. 279; Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U. S. 1, 16; Fry v. State, 63 Indiana, 552; Williams v. Fears, 179 U. S. 270; S. C., affirming 110 Georgia, 584; Smith v. Ala