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MILLS v. LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY

June 21, 1915

MILLS, AS SURVIVING PARTNER OF NAYLOR & COMPANY
v.
LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Hughes

[ 238 U.S. Page 475]

 MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the court.

During the years 1906 and 1907, Naylor & Company -- a firm of which the plaintiff in error is surviving partner -- were shippers of pyrites cinder over the lines of the defendants in error from Buffalo, New York, to points in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The published rate was $2 per gross ton. On April 4, 1908, these shippers filed a complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission, alleging that the rate was 'excessive,' 'unreasonable' and 'unjustly discriminatory.' They asked that the railroad companies be ordered to desist from exacting the rate, that a lower rate be fixed, and that reparation be granted. The defendants answered and, after hearing, the Commission made its report on January 5, 1909, holding 'that the rate on pyrites cinder should not exceed the rate on iron ore from Buffalo.' The rate on iron ore was $1.45 per

[ 238 U.S. Page 476]

     ton to points of destination to which there was a rate of $2 on pyrites cinder. Reparation was refused. Naylor & Company v. Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, 15 I.C.C. 9. Order was made accordingly.

On May 8, 1909, Naylor & Company filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission a motion for a rehearing on the question of reparation alone, and the motion was granted. Additional evidence was taken and various sums were awarded by the Commission against the respective companies as reparation on shipments made within the period of limitation. The order was made on June 2, 1910.

In May, 1911 this suit was brought, pursuant to ยง 16 of the Act to Regulate Commerce, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to recover the several amounts of money set forth 'as and for damages and reparation' in accordance with the Commission's order. Issue was joined by a plea of not guilty. Upon the trial, the two reports and orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission, above mentioned, were received in evidence over objection. There was testimony that the amounts awarded had not been paid. That constituted the case for the plaintiffs, and the defendants offered no evidence. A request by the defendants for 'binding instructions' in their favor was refused. The case was submitted to the jury with the instruction, in substance, that the finding of the Commission was prima facie evidence of the facts and that it was for the jury to say whether the plaintiffs were entitled to recover the amount of money claimed. A verdict was returned for the plaintiffs in specified amounts which appear to be the same as those awarded by the Commission with interest to date. The defendants then moved for judgment non obstante veredicto. The motion was dismissed and judgment ordered for the plaintiffs on October 30, 1912. At the same time, the trial court allowed to the counsel for the plaintiffs a fee of $1,000 for their services in the proceedings

[ 238 U.S. Page 477]

     before the Interstate Commerce Commission and a further fee of like amount for their services in this suit; and to this allowance the defendants excepted. Exceptions having also been taken to the refusal of the request of the court to direct a verdict for the defendants, to the instruction given, and to the dismissal of the motion for judgment non obstante veredicto, proceedings in error were had before the Circuit Court of Appeals, where the judgment was reversed, without directing a new trial. Lehigh Valley R.R. v. Clark, 207 Fed. Rep. 717. And to review the judgment, this writ of error has been prosecuted.

The grounds of the ruling of the court below are: first, that there were no sufficient findings of fact in the reports of the Commission, as required by the statute; and, second, that the plaintiffs had failed to present any evidence which made out a prima facie case of damage sustained. That is, it is said that if the statements in the first report of the Commission could be regarded as findings of fact within the meaning of the statute so as to make them prima facie evidence of the facts found, they were not sufficient to support the plaintiffs' claim; and that there were no facts found in the second report which entitled the plaintiffs to go to the jury.

The fundamental question thus presented, with respect to the effect of the Commission's reports and orders, has recently been determined in Meeker & Co. v. Lehigh Valley R.R. Co., 236 U.S. 412, and, in the light of the conclusion there reached, little need now be said. In dealing with the objection that the reports and orders of the Commission then before the court did not contain any findings of fact, or at least not enough to sustain an award of damages, it was held that the statute does not require a statement of the evidential or primary facts. The court said: "We think this is not the ...


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