Lapas attēli

perhaps the processes of which courts enforced payment of a judgment rendered. The general supervision of railways required of the Commissioners has reference to the operation of steam railways and the violation of the laws of the State for their operation, the condition and equipment of the lines for public safety and convenience, the condition of bridges, the charter and other legal liabilities of railways, the necessity of repairs, additions to rolling-stock, changes or additions to stationhouses, erection of stations at crossings, rates of fare for freight and passengers; and in all these matters the Commissioners are to have in view the promotion of the security, convenience, and accommodation of the public. It is possible, as contended by complainant's attorney, that in the many hundred varied cases considered by the Commissioners since the law has been in force, there have been some acted upon that would not come strictly within the lines above marked out; but, if so, they have been cases in which no question of jurisdiction has been raised by either of the contending parties. But in this case the question has been raised, and must be met; and we think it evident that the case does not come within the defined limits.

"It was very plausibly and forcibly contended by complainant's counsel that the theory of arbitration pervaded the Commissioner law and is its true spirit. We believe and have ever acted upon this idea. But we do not find in the law the idea of enforced arbitration of matters outside the limits of the law above set forth. The matter in question in the case is one of purely private right, and has no reference to the duties of the railway as a public carrier, nor to the method of its operation nor equipment, nor is it in any way connected with the promotion of the security, convenience, and accommodation of the public. It does not seem to us nearly so strong a case as that of the personal injury resulting from the alleged negligence of those charged with the operation of the railway; and yet the Commissioners would not feel authorized to take cognizance of such a case, unless all parties voluntarily submitted the facts to the Board for investigation and determination. Our opinion, therefore, is that the case is not one which the Board is authorized to hear and determine, against the objection formally made to its jurisdiction by one of the contend

ing parties, and we must therefore decline to further consider the same."

The first claim for damages in which the railroad company refused to accept the finding of the Board was filed Jan. 16, 1883.1 The case concerned apples injured in shipment. The Commissioners held that the claim was a just one; but the Central Iowa Railway Company, while not denying the jurisdiction of the Board, denied both the legality and equity of the claim, and declined to pay it. Secretary Morgan of the Board wrote to the complainants as follows:

"I send you with this a copy of the Commissioner law. By examining this you will see that it is the duty of this Board to examine all cases presented, and report to the company what, in their judgment, should be done. The law gives them no power to enforce their decisions. It has hitherto rarely happened that the companies have not complied with the holdings of the Commissioners. In this case it is evident that the company does not intend to respect the decision, and it will be necessary for you to apply for relief to a court that has power to enforce its findings.”

Upon inquiry by the complainants as to whether their case did not come under the new law of the Twentieth General Assembly, and could not be enforced through the Circuit and District Courts, the Board replied:

"Upon examination of the law to which you refer, the Board finds that jurisdiction is conferred upon the Circuit and District Courts of the State to enforce by proper decrees, injunctions, and orders, the rulings, orders, and regulations affecting public right made or to be made by the Board of Railroad Commissioners. It is the opinion of the Commissioners that they are only authorized to advise the attorney-general of the refusal to obey orders affecting public right. Your claim is for loss or damage resulting 2 See p. 116.

1 Report, 1883, p. 550.

from alleged neglect to promptly forward perishable articles, which neglect resulted in their loss. The recommendation made was one that seems to alone affect private right. Your case appears to be one for the courts. They alone can furnish you with the relief you desire, the Commissioners having, in their view, done all that they are by law authorized to do in your behalf." 1

In the case filed May 25, 1882,2 a claim for damages was entered in which the complainants charged that an amount of butter which was hauled to the railway station, and by reason of the non-arrival of the refrigerator car at the advertised time, was exposed to the heat, had melted, and consequently deteriorated in value. It was argued by the respondents that they were under no legal obligation to furnish extraordinary facilities for the transportation of perishable articles, and, again, that to advertise the arrival of a car at a certain time did not constitute a contract between a carrier and shipper, the carrier being under obligations only to use ordinary diligence. This had been done. The Board awarded the damages to complainant on the ground that the railroad, having encouraged the growth of dairy interests through the offer of special privileges, was in duty bound to make the service reliable. The delay in arrival of trains could not always be avoided; but at least provision should be made to notify shippers of delays, and facilities should be offered for proper storage to prevent loss. The award was promptly paid by the railroad company. General

1 Report, 1884, p. 5.

2 Marshall & Son, Chariton, Ia., vs. C., B., & Q., Report, 1882, p. 497.

Freight Agent Ripley, in submitting to the decision, wrote as follows:

"In doing this we do not intend to be understood as in the slightest degree conceding the justice of your decision in this particular case. But believing that in the main your intention is to deal fairly with the railroads as well as with the people, and believing that in the past your decisions have been, as a rule, just and equitable, we are not disposed further to contest this claim, although we have not in the slightest particular changed our opinion in regard to it."

Whether the jurisdiction of the Board would have been questioned, and the case taken to the courts, had the amount at issue been larger, it is impossible to tell. It is significant, however, that the railroad submitted against its will to the recommendation of a commission which had no direct power to enforce its findings. Public opinion, with means ready at hand to make itself effective, such as the legislature and the courts, is a powerful factor in settling controversies of this character.

Other powers of adjudication were granted to the Commission in addition to those impliedly possessed under the original law. Chap. 190, Laws of the Twentieth General Assembly, gave power to railroad companies to condemn lands for additional depot grounds in the same manner as for right of way. But the companies were required first to petition the Railroad Commissioners, who were to give notice to the land-owner, and report by certificate to the clerk of the Circuit Court in the city in which the land was situated, the amount and description of the additional lands necessary for the reasonable transaction of the business of the company. duties the Board performed as occasion required.




OVERCHARGE was the most frequent cause of complaint in the history of the Advisory Commission. Most of the cases involved no important principle, but simply required an investigation of rate schedules by the Commissioners. In many cases the overcharge was an error on the part of the company, which could have been rectified without any appeal to the Board. One of the great benefits which the Board conferred during these years was in removing misunderstandings, and in promoting such relations that questions of difference would adjust themselves.

A case arose in December, 1883,1 in which an interesting principle was involved. A shipment of freight was made from Chicago to Grundy Center, Ia., for $2.85, of which the Chicago and Northwestern received 75 cents from Chicago to Cedar Rapids, 220 miles, and the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern, $2.10 from Cedar Rapids to Grundy Center, 69 miles, the latter rate being greater than the local rate of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern for this distance. The Commissioners asserted that the practice of giving to branch and smaller lines a greater percentage of the through rate than a pro rata for collecting and distributing freight was universal.

1 Report, 1883, p. 733.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »