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decided: March 22, 1926.



Taft, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone

Author: Brandeis

[ 270 U.S. Page 467]

 MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1922, Byrd J. Boone, a passenger on an intrastate journey in Missouri over the Missouri Pacific Railroad, checked a trunk which she took with her. It arrived safely at its destination but was not delivered to her because a thief obtained possession through the device of changing checks. She brought this suit against the carrier in a court of the State; and claimed that, under § 9941 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, 1919, she was entitled to the full value. This law, first enacted in 1855, Mo. Rev. Stat., c. 39, § 45, had never been suspended or repealed by any law of the State. The defendant relied upon a baggage tariff which limited liability to $100 unless a greater value was declared and extra payment made. This tariff, applicable to both intrastate and interstate traffic, had been duly filed by the Director General of Railroads pursuant to the Federal Control Act, March 21, 1918, c. 25, § 10, 40 Stat. 451, 456, and was in force on the termination of federal control, February 29, 1920. The defendant contended that, by virtue of

[ 270 U.S. Page 468]

     § 208(a) of Transportation Act, 1920, February 28, 1920, c. 91, 41 Stat. 456, 464, this limitation had remained in force as applied to intrastate commerce, because the provision for unlimited liability contained in § 9941 of the Missouri Revised Statutes had not been re-enacted after the termination of federal control.

Section 208(a) provides:

"All rates, fares, and charges, and all classifications, regulations, and practices, in any wise changing, affecting, or determining, any part or the aggregate of rates, fares, or charges, or the value of the service rendered, which on February 29, 1920, are in effect on the lines of carriers subject to the Interstate Commerce Act, shall continue in force and effect until thereafter changed by State or Federal authority, respectively, or pursuant to authority of law; but prior to September 1, 1920, no such rate, fare, or charge shall be reduced, and no such classification, regulation, or practice shall be changed in such manner as to reduce any such rate, fare, or charge, unless such reduction or change is approved by the Commission."

The trial court entered judgment for $1,000 and interest. The judgment was affirmed by the St. Louis Court of Appeals, the highest court of the State in which a decision in the suit could be had. 263 S. W. 495. The court held that, under the law of Missouri, misdelivery of the trunk was a conversion which rendered the carrier liable for its full value; and that the state law governed because the journey was intrastate. This Court granted a writ of certiorari. 266 U.S. 600. Under the federal law misdelivery is not deemed a conversion depriving a carrier of the benefit of the provision limiting liability. American Railway Express Co. v. Levee, 263 U.S. 19, 21. The sole question for decision is the construction and effect to be given § 208(a).

The provision in the baggage tariff limiting liability is within the purview of that section. There was no

[ 270 U.S. Page 469]

     legislation by the State on the subject after the termination of federal control. The State had confessedly power to restore the full statutory liability as applied to intrastate commerce unless the Interstate Commerce Commission should, for the purpose of preventing discrimination against interstate commerce, issue an order under Transportation Act, 1920, to the contrary. See Wisconsin Railroad Commission v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. R. Co., 257 U.S. 563; New York v. United States, 257 U.S. 591. There was no such order. Compare Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Public Utilities Commission, 242 U.S. 333. The precise question is whether the state provision, which had been suspended by the filing of the tariffs of the Director General, became operative on September 1, 1920, without re-enactment, or whether affirmative action by the State after February 29, 1920, was necessary to restore the full liability theretofore created by its statute and which it had not repealed. The analogy of state insolvent laws suspended by enactment of a bankruptcy act and again becoming operative upon its repeal, was relied upon. See Tua v. Carriere, 117 U.S. 201; Butler v. Goreley, 146 U.S. 303.

Most of the rates, fares and charges in effect on February 29, 1920, had been established without suspending any provision of any statute or the order of any regulatory body. They related to matters with which, both before and after federal control, carriers were, in the main, at liberty to deal in their discretion, without first securing the consent of either the federal or the state commission. For despite the enlarging sphere of regulation, the field in ...

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