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EMMONS COAL MINING COMPANY ET AL. v. NORFOLK & WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY

decided: January 3, 1927.

EMMONS COAL MINING COMPANY ET AL
v.
NORFOLK & WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

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

Author: Holmes

[ 272 U.S. Page 710]

 MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit by the Norfolk and Western Railway Company to recover demurrage on cars at Lambert's Point, Virginia, from the Emmons Coal Mining Company and its surety. An affidavit of defence upon matters of law was filed, but was held insufficient by the District Court, 287 Fed. 168, and judgment subsequently was entered for the plaintiff. The judgment was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 3 F. 2nd 525.

To facilitate the delivery of coal at tidewater some of the owners of mines upon the lines of the Railway made an arrangement with the latter by which the cars were sorted at Lambert's Point upon different tracks according to the quality of the coal, and delivery was made to their respective customers from the cars most convenient at the moment, irrespective of ownership, if the seller had that amount of coal on hand in cars within the space limits agreed. To work this out the parties formed an association, called the Lamberts Point Coal Exchange, with a manager who kept books in which he credited to each owner coal destined to the Point as soon as it passed Bluefield, West Virginia, noting its quality, and ordered delivery within the amount so credited, as required, to the owner's customers. If the delivery were required to be from the consignor's own cars, as it would be in the absence of agreement, of course if the cars were detained beyond the allowed time demurrage would be payable. When under the arrangement one member's cars were emptied to fill the order of another member, other cars with similar coal would have to be kept, in order to satisfy the first member's right when it came to assert it, and it should pay as in the first case, since the delay would be the same to the railroad whichever of its cars were detained. The responsibility of the owner for them is the

[ 272 U.S. Page 711]

     natural corollary of the benefit that each owner gets by having its order filled from the nearest cars.

In the present case the demurrage demanded is fixed by the foregoing rule. The plaintiffs in error say that by the tariff that governs the matter they can be charged only for the cars actually used and detained by them; that to make the tariff cover a substitution it must be modified by the rules of the Exchange, which cannot be done, and that if there is a claim against anyone, it is a claim against the Lamberts Point Coal Exchange.

The last point may be dispatched in a few words. The articles of organization of the Exchange provide that the member shall be responsible to the Railway for demurrage, and that the shipping instructions, &c., "shall show as the consignee the name of the member for whose account shipped, followed by the words 'care Lamberts Point Coal Exchange Pool -- .'" The Coal Company's consignments were in accordance with the agreement, and by the agreement or without it made the Company the consignee. We come therefore to the tariff the construction of which is the only point much argued in the case.

The important clauses are in Rule 3, and Rule 4.

"(b) A car shall be considered as released:

"1. At the time vessel registers for the cargo or fuel supply of which the coal, coal briquets or coke dumped into such vessel is a part, except that when cars are unloaded before the vessel registers such cars shall be released when unloaded.

"2. To avoid delay that would be entailed in switching out and delivering on shipper's order, in actual sequence of arrival, cars containing the same grade of coal, as indicated by the identifying consigning names or numbers on the waybills, the dates on which cars should have been so released (as ...


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