WABASH RAILROAD CO. V. PEARCE, 192 U. S. 179 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wabash Railroad Co. v. Pearce, 192 U.S. 179 (1904)

Wabash Railroad Company v. Pearce

No. 112

Submitted December 18, 1903

Decided January 11, 1904

192 U.S. 179


Where not only the scope and applicability of the doctrine of subrogation is involved, but also the extent to which a common carrier is protected by the laws of the United States in paying customs duties exacted thereunder on goods in transit over its lines, a federal question is presented, which, when properly set up in the state courts, is subject to review by this Court.

A common carrier has, under the laws of the United States, a lien entitling it to possession until paid, on goods in transit over its lines for legal

Page 192 U. S. 180

import duties paid thereon by it either directly to the government or to a connecting carrier which has already paid the same.

Where a contract of shipment, from a point without to a point within the United States over the lines of several carriers, provides that each carrier shall be liable only for loss or damage accruing on its own lines, the last carrier is not responsible for damages resulting from an examination by customs officers at a point not on its own line, and different from the point to which the contract provided that the goods should be delivered in bond.

On June 25, 1895, Charles E. Pearce, the testator of the defendants in error, commenced his action in replevin in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, to recover from the railroad company four boxes of curios. After answer a trial was had before the court without a jury, resulting in a judgment for the plaintiff which, on May 7, 1901, was affirmed by the St. Louis Court of Appeals. 89 Mo.App. 437. An application to transfer the case to the supreme court of the state on the ground that it involved the validity of a statute of or authority exercised under the United States was denied, State ex Rel. Wabash R. Co. v. Bland, 168 Mo. 1, and thereupon it was brought here on writ of error.

The facts are undisputed, and are as follows: Pearce was the owner of the curios, and in Yokohama, Japan, shipped them to St. Louis. The bill of lading was issued by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and recited that the goods were shipped upon the company's steamer Empress of India, to be carried to Vancouver, British Columbia, and thence over the Canadian Pacific and connecting lines to St. Louis, Missouri. The boxes were carried to Vancouver and thence by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company over its own and a connecting line controlled by it to St. Paul, Minnesota. Upon arrival at St. Paul, the custom officers took possession of the boxes, opened and examined the contents, and duly assessed the duties thereon at $264.31, which sum was paid by the railway company, and had to be paid in order to regain possession and forward the goods. The goods were thereafter delivered to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, by

Page 192 U. S. 181

it to the defendant at Given, Iowa, and by the latter carried to St. Louis. The inspection at St. Paul was in strict accordance with the laws of the United States, and the duties exacted were properly chargeable upon the goods. When the defendant received the goods from the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, it became responsible under its traffic agreements for the payment of the charges then on the goods, including the custom duties, and has since paid those charges. On receipt of the goods in St. Louis, they were tendered to the plaintiff upon payment of the charges. The goods were shipped in bond to St. Louis, and this was so marked on the boxes. If they had been transported to St. Louis in bond, as they should have been, they would there have been opened and examined and retained in the custody and possession of the custom officers not only during examination and inspection, but also until the duties were paid.

Page 192 U. S. 184

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