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ROBINSON v. BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD COMPANY.

decided: January 9, 1912.

ROBINSON
v.
BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD COMPANY.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA.

Author: Van Devanter

[ 222 U.S. Page 507]

 MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the court.

In February, March and May, 1903, Robinson, the plaintiff in error, shipped eleven carloads of coal from Fairmont, West Virginia, to points in other States, over the railroad of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, the defendant in error, and paid the rate thereon which was prescribed in a schedule published and filed conformably to the act to regulate interstate commerce and then in full force. By this schedule the rate was fifty cents more per ton when the coal was loaded into the car from wagons than when the loading was from a tipple. Robinson's shipments came under the higher rate, and the charges paid by him were $150.00 in excess of what would have been exacted if his coal had been loaded from a tipple. Conceiving that the schedule unjustly discriminated between shipments loaded from tipples and those loaded from wagons, he brought, in the Circuit Court of Marion County, West Virginia, on April 19, 1906, an action against the railroad company to recover the excess so paid.The case was heard upon an agreed statement of facts, which set forth, with some detail, the matters just stated and recited that it embodied "all the facts and evidence in the cause." But the statement did not disclose, or even suggest, that the schedule had been the subject of a complaint to the Interstate Commerce Commission or had been found by the Commission to be unjustly discriminatory, or that the railroad company had been ordered by the Commission to desist from giving effect to the schedule or to make reparation to Robinson or any other shipper because of prior exactions thereunder. Being of opinion that, upon the agreed statement, Robinson was not entitled

[ 222 U.S. Page 508]

     to recover, the court entered a judgment dismissing his action, and that judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State. 64 W. Va. 406. He then sued out this writ of error upon the ground that, by the judgment of affirmance, he was denied rights specially set up under the act to regulate interstate commerce.

The first question to be considered is, whether, consistently with the provisions of that act, Robinson could maintain his action for reparation in the absence of an order by the Interstate Commerce Commission finding that the established schedule whereby the additional fifty cents per ton was exacted was unjustly discriminatory, determining what reparation should be made because of prior exactions thereunder, and directing the carrier to desist from such discrimination in the future, and to make the reparation indicated. It was contended by him in the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State, and is contended now, that the question should be answered in the affirmative because of the provision in § 22 (Act of 1887) that "nothing in this act contained shall in any way abridge or alter the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the provisions of this act are in addition to such remedies." But it must be ruled otherwise, and for these reasons:

The act, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379; c. 382, 25 Stat. 855; c. 61, 28 Stat. 643; c. 708, 32 Stat. 847, whilst prohibiting unreasonable charges, unjust discriminations and undue preferences by carriers subject to its provisions, also prescribed the manner in which that prohibition should be enforced; that is to say, the act laid upon every such carrier the duty of publishing and filing, in a prescribed mode, schedules of the rates to be charged for the transportation of property over its road, declared that the rates named in schedules so established should be conclusively deemed to be the legal rates until changed as provided in the act, forbade any deviation from them

[ 222 U.S. Page 509]

     while they remained in effect, invested the Interstate Commerce Commission with authority to receive complaints against rates so established, and to inquire and find whether they were in any wise violative of the prohibitions of the act, and, if so, what, if any, injury had been done thereby to the person complaining or to others, and further authorized the Commission to direct the carrier to desist from any violation found to exist, and to make reparation for any injury found to have been done.Provision was also made for the enforcement of the order for reparation, by an action in the Circuit Court of the United States, if the carrier failed to comply with it.

Thus, for the purpose of preventing unreasonable charges, unjust discriminations and undue preferences, a system of establishing, maintaining and altering rate schedules and of redressing injuries resulting from their enforcement was adopted whereby publicity would be given to the rates, their application would be obligatory and uniform while they remained in effect, and the matter of their conformity to prescribed standards would be committed primarily to a single tribunal clothed with authority to investigate complaints and to order the correction of any non-conformity to those standards by an appropriate change in schedules and by due reparation to injured persons.

When the purpose of the act and the means selected for the accomplishment of that purpose are understood, it is altogether plain that the act contemplated that such an investigation and order by the designated tribunal, the Interstate Commerce Commission, should be a pre-requisite to the right to seek reparation in the courts because of exactions under an established schedule alleged to be violative of the prescribed standards. And this is so, because the existence and exercise of a right to maintain an action of that character, in the absence of such an investigation and order, would be repugnant to the declared

[ 222 U.S. Page 510]

     rule that a rate established in the mode prescribed should be deemed the legal rate and obligatory alike upon carrier and shipper until changed in the manner provided, would be in derogation of the power expressly delegated to the Commission, and would be ...


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