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U.S. Supreme Court

Spiller v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 253 U.S. 117 (1920)

Spiller v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company

Nos. 137-145

Argued January 15, 1920

Decided May 17, 1920

253 U.S. 117


In cases of a class which may ultimately reach this Court by writ of error under Jud.Code, §§ 128 and 241, this Court has jurisdiction to review by certiorari judgments of the circuit court of appeals

Page 253 U. S. 118

which are not final in the sense of concluding the litigation, such jurisdiction arising under § 262 when the jurisdictional amount prescribed by § 241 is in controversy and under § 240 when it is not. P. 253 U. S. 120.

This jurisdiction will be exercised in proper cases to avoid protraction of the litigation. P. 253 U. S. 121.

The courts cannot refuse to enforce a reparation order upon the ground that the evidence before the Interstate Commerce Commission was insufficient to sustain it when substantial documentary evidence that was before the Commission is not produced at the trial. P. 253 U. S. 125.

The Act to Regulate Commerce allows the Commission wide latitude in the investigation of claims for reparation, and its finding and order may not be rejected as evidence because of errors in its procedure not amounting to a denial of a fair hearing, so long as the essential facts found are based on substantial evidence. P. 253 U. S. 126.

In a proceeding in which the Commission awarded reparation for excessive freight charges on many shipments of cattle consigned to Commission companies by many shippers over many railroads, a witness who had gathered the details of the shipments in some cases from shippers, but mainly from the Commission companies, presented them at the hearings and further testified that the shippers rarely kept books, relying on the Commission companies to do so, and that the practice of the latter was to pay the freight, sell the cattle, and remit the proceeds to their owners minus the freight paid and other charges; the evidence was received without objection and summaries showing the details of the shipments, rate paid, overcharge claimed, etc., were submitted to the carriers and "O.K.'d" after comparison with their books. Held that this evidence, including the admissions that might be implied from the carriers' approval of the summaries, was sufficient to justify the Commission in finding that the shipments were made as claimed and the overcharges paid ultimately by the shippers. P. 253 U. S. 127.

A decision by the Commission that a witness before it is qualified as an expert must be accepted by the courts unless clearly unfounded. P. 253 U. S. 130.

An order of the Commission is not to be rejected because based in part on hearsay evidence, if the evidence was received without objection and was substantially corroborated by other evidence original and admissible against the parties affected. Id.

In view of the character of its functions and the fact that its reparation orders are, at most, prima facie evidence, the Commission should not

Page 253 U. S. 119

be narrowly constrained as to the evidence it may receive in the conduct of reparation hearings. P. 253 U. S. 131.

If only part of the claims for which reparation was awarded were sustained by evidence, objection should be directed to the others, and not to the order as a whole. Id.

In a hearing for reparation, payment of a published rate afterwards decided to have been excessive is evidence that the party who paid the freight sustained damage to the extent of the excess. P. 253 U. S. 132. Southern Pacific Co. v. Darnell-Taenzer Lumber Co., 245 U. S. 531.

In a reparation hearing, assignments of claims to the secretary of a cattle raisers' association were offered and their filing waived, and there was evidence that they had been made for nominal considerations because the association was prosecuting the claims for their owners. Held that formal proof of the handwriting of the assignors was unnecessary. P. 253 U. S. 133.

An assignment of the legal title only will confer on the assignee the right to claim an award of reparation and enable him to sue upon it in his own name, but for the benefit of the equitable owner. P. 253 U. S. 134.

A claim for damages sustained through the exaction of unreasonable freight charges is assignable at law, if no statute prevents, and there is nothing in the letter or spirit of the Commerce Act inconsistent with such assignability. P. 253 U. S. 135.

The ruling of the Commission declaring that an assignment to a stranger to the transportation records will not be recognized is erroneous as a construction of the act, and, treated as an administrative regulation, did not limit the Commission's jurisdiction to recognize such assignments. P. 253 U. S. 136.

246 F. 1; 249 id. 677, reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 253 U. S. 120

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