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UNITED STATES v. PENNSYLVANIA R.R. CO.

October 13, 1969

UNITED STATES of America
v.
The PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HANNUM

 This is the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment in a civil action brought to recover forfeitures based upon the violation of the Interstate Commerce Commission's Order Ex Parte 73. The order was authorized by Section 3(2) of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C., *fn1" which prohibits delivery of any shipment of freight by a carrier until all freight charges have been paid, except under such regulations as the Commission may prescribe.

 The order of the Commission in Ex Parte No. 73 permits carriers to extend credit on carload shipments up to a maximum 120 hours. *fn2" The violations charged are all extensions of credit in excess of that limit.

 Section 16(8) of the Interstate Commerce Act provides for forfeiture by the carrier to the United States of $5,000.00 for each offense in which the carrier knowingly fails or neglects to obey any order made under the provisions of Section 3. *fn3"

 Whether a sanction is civil or criminal is a question of statutory construction. United States v. Norfolk, Baltimore and Carolina Line, Inc., 382 F.2d 208 (4th Cir. 1967).

 The main reason urged by the defendant in support of this position is that the terminology used in Section 16(8) of the statute is penal in nature. However, Section 16(9) of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 16(9) refers to the $5,000.00 forfeiture and provides that such shall be recoverable in a civil suit. It is equally within the power of Congress to impose both a criminal and a civil sanction with respect to the same act or omission. A forfeiture of goods or their value and the payment of fixed or variable sums of money are sanctions which have been recogized as enforcible by civil proceedings. See United States v. Western Pacific Railroad Company, and United States v. Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company, 385 F.2d 161 (10th Cir. 1967), cert. denied, sub nom. Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company v. United States, 391 U.S. 919, 88 S. Ct. 1805, 20 L. Ed. 2d 656 (1968); Helvering v. Mitchell, 303 U.S. 391, 58 S. Ct. 630, 82 L. Ed. 917 (1937); United States v. Regan, 232 U.S. 37, 34 S. Ct. 213, 58 L. Ed. 494 (1914).

 Count 1 of the Complaint charges, in paragraph 4, that the defendant, during the period of June 1962, through December 1963, frequently and knowingly engaged in the practice of extending credit in excess of 120 hours for tariff charges applicable to interstate carload shipments of freight to certain shippers, namely, Murphy Plywood Corporation and Morris Fishman and Sons, Inc.

 Despite defendant's denials of the conclusionary allegations, defendant admits the correctness and accuracy of certain copies of the Railroad Company's books of account which disclose that defendant, on numerous occasions, delivered freight to Murphy Plywood Corporation and to Morris Fishman and Sons, Inc. without collecting the freight charges thereon, and that such freight charges stood unpaid in excess of 120 hours. *fn4" It is undisputed that no action was taken by the defendant to cancel the credit of the two delinquent shippers.

 Defendant attempts to explain its failure to collect freight charges from Murphy Plywood Corporation within the 120 hour credit period because of an offsetting claim by this shipper for damages to the shipment. While it is true that when suit has been brought by the carrier or the shipper, claims for damage may be set off or the subject of a counter-claim in accordance with the law of the forum, a shipper may not deduct the amount of claimed damage from freight charges owed to the carrier, nor may the carrier set off debts owed by that carrier to a shipper against debt accruing from freight charges owed by the shipper to the carrier. Chicago & North Western Railway Company v. Lindell, 281 U.S. 14, 50 S. Ct. 200, 74 L. Ed. 670 (1930).

 The final point upon which the court must focus attention involves the defendant's contention that the Government must establish proof of unjust discrimination before defendant may be considered in violation of the Commission's order.

 In support of this contention the defendant relies upon Continental Shippers Association v. United States, 328 F.2d 966 (9th Cir. 1964) which was a criminal prosecution charging a violation of the Elkins Act, 49 U.S.C. § 41(1) (1959). However, in Continental, supra, the action was against a non-paying shipper rather than against a non-collecting carrier. In that case the court was faced with a factual situation in which once a delay existed in payment of tariff charges by the shipper, the carrier had taken prompt collection measures, suspending credit privileges on future shipments by the shipper in an attempt to avoid an unlawful concession or discrimination. Therefore, the situation in that case involving the violation of Section 41(1) of the Elkins Act, supra, is significantly different from that presently facing the court. *fn6"

 In issuing the credit order Ex Parte No. 73 pursuant to Section 3(2) of the Statute, the Interstate Commerce Commission established a standard of 120 hours as the maximum period within which it was permissible to extend credit on freight charges and within which those charges upon which credit had been extended had to be collected. Therefore payment of these charges within the established standard is required "to prevent unjust discrimination". Discriminations are departures from fixed standards for the benefit of one to the prejudice of another. The discrimination in this case is the departure by the defendant from the credit order and the use by the shipper of ...


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