ADAMS EXPRESS CO. V. KENTUCKY, 206 U. S. 129 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Adams Express Co. v. Kentucky, 206 U.S. 129 (1907)

Adams Express Co. v. Kentucky

No. 331

Argued April 17, 18, 1907

Decided May 13, 1907

206 U.S. 129


A statute of Kentucky making penal all shipments of liquor "to be paid for on delivery, commonly called C.O.D. shipments," and further providing that the place where the money is paid or the goods delivered shall be deemed to be the place of sale and that the carrier and his agents delivering the goods shall be jointly liable with the vendor, is, as applied to shipments from one state to another, an attempt to regulate interstate commerce, and beyond the power of the state.

When, in a prosecution of an express company for a violation of this statute by an interstate shipment, it is averred in the indictment or stipulated by the prosecution that the shipment and delivery were made and done by the express company in the usual course of its business as a carrier, testimony that the consignee did not order the goods or that the goods were held by the agent of the company at the place of delivery for a few days to accommodate the consignee is immaterial.

On February 17, 1904, a grand jury returned into the circuit court of Laurel County, Kentucky, an indictment against Joe Newland and the Adams Express Company charging that

"the said Joe Newland and the Adams Express Company, the latter being a partnership engaged in and carrying on the business of a common carrier of packages, goods, wares, and merchandise, by the method known as express . . . did, in Laurel County, Kentucky, on the seventeenth day of February, 1904, unlawfully and willfully carry for and deliver to George Meece a parcel, package, shipment, and quantity of intoxicating, spirituous, vinous, and malt liquors . . . to be and which was paid for on delivery at East Bernstadt in said Laurel County, same being at the time a shipment commonly known and called C.O.D. shipments, . . . said shipment and delivery being made and done at the time by said Joe Newland and said Adams Express Company in the usual course of business of said Adams Express Company. "

Page 206 U. S. 130

Subsequently the action was dismissed as to Newland, and, on a plea of not guilty, the case was tried before a jury and resulted in a verdict finding the company guilty and fixing the fine at $60. The instructions of the court were as follows:

"Gentlemen of the Jury:"

"1. If you shall believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant, Adams Express Company, is a copartnership, formed of persons whose names and number were unknown to the grand jury that found this indictment, and who lived out of the State of Kentucky, but are doing business in the State of Kentucky and in Laurel County, Kentucky, and under the firm name and style of 'Adams Express Company,' and that the said Adams Express Company, in this county and within twelve months next before the finding of the indictment herein, knowingly delivered to the witness, George Meece, spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors in quantities of less than five gallons at the time mentioned by the witness, and received the pay therefor, and that said company received any pay whatever for its service in that behalf, then you should find the defendant guilty and fix its punishment at any fine not less than $60.00 nor more than $100.00, in your discretion, according to proof."

"2. The court says to the jury that, if they shall believe from the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the agent or agents of the defendant's company that accepted, received, transported, or delivered the package mentioned in evidence by the witness Meece, knew, or might, by the exercise of such care as persons of ordinary prudence are accustomed to use in the ordinary transactions of life, have known the contents of the package delivered to the witness, then the defendant company is chargeable with such knowledge, and should be held to know the contents of such package."

Judgment was entered on the verdict, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the state, 27 Ky. 1096, and from that court the case was

Page 206 U. S. 131

brought here on writ of error. The act under which the prosecution was had is subsec. 4 of § 2557b, Kentucky Statutes, 1903, commonly called the "C.O.D." law, which is part of the general local option law as amended in 1902, and which reads:

"All the shipments of spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors, to be paid for on delivery, commonly called 'C.O.D. shipments' into any county, city, town, district, or precinct where said act is in force, shall be unlawful and shall be deemed sales of such liquors at the place where the money is paid or the goods delivered; the carrier and his agents selling or delivering such goods shall be liable jointly with the vendor thereof. "

Page 206 U. S. 135

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