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05/01/89 Transconex, Inc., v. Jefferson Industries

May 1, 1989





538 N.E.2d 738, 182 Ill. App. 3d 893, 131 Ill. Dec. 363 1989.IL.640

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Miriam Balanoff, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the court. BUCKLEY and QUINLAN, JJ., concur.


The principal issue in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in failing to find that, as a matter of law, plaintiff, Transconex, Inc., was required to collect its full tariff charges for the transportation services rendered to defendant, Jefferson Industries, Inc., regardless of an alleged misquotation initially given. We reverse and remand.

The plaintiff, Transconex, Inc. (Transconex), is an interstate freight forwarder and non-vessel-operating common carrier which makes both interstate and international transportation arrangements on behalf of its customers. Defendant Jefferson Industries, Inc. (Jefferson), is a manufacturer of carpets and mats with plants located in Chicago, Illinois, and Chatsworth, Georgia.

In August of 1983, Jefferson sought to ship two quantities of carpets to a customer in Trinidad, West Indies. In arranging for the shipments, Jefferson used the services of I.F.C. Corporation , a freight forwarder. On or about August 13, 1983, at the request of IFC, Transconex accepted two sealed 40-foot trailers, alternately described as containers of goods, for delivery to Trinidad. One shipment originated at Chicago, Illinois, and the other at Chatsworth, Georgia.

Prior to shipping the goods, Jefferson received a quotation for the freight charge. The bills of lading show that the freight charges from Chicago to Trinidad were $6,000 and the charges from Chatsworth to Trinidad were $6,300. The information on the bills of lading indicated that the containers held 800 cubic feet of goods, although one of the containers had a capacity of 2,686 cubic feet of freight and the other had a cubic capacity of 2,373 feet. According to Transconex, the freight charges were computed based upon the information received from IFC.

Subsequent to transporting the goods, Transconex discovered that the charges originally assessed and collected were erroneous. Although Jefferson had sealed up the containers, in effect using the entire capacity of the containers, Transconex testified that the original charges were based upon the use of only 800 cubic feet. Transconex then issued corrected bills of lading reflecting what it believed to be the correct tariff charges. The revised charges were approximately $13,319.25 greater than the charges initially assessed and collected.

Jefferson refused to pay the revised rates and Transconex filed suit on March 14, 1986. Following a bench trial, judgment was entered in favor of defendant and plaintiff now brings this appeal.

Plaintiff contends that the trial court's decision was contrary to law in that plaintiff was required to assess and collect its full tariff charges regardless of any initial misquotations of the rate. Plaintiff points out that the decision of the trial court was not based upon the tariffs introduced at trial, but was based upon purported quotations given to defendant as to what the charges would be and that reversal is warranted as the trial court improperly decided the case based upon contract principles. We agree.

As an interstate freight forwarder and non-vessel-operating common carrier, Transconex was operating pursuant to authority issued by the Interstate Commerce Commission and Federal Maritime Commission . At the time Transconex agreed to transport the shipments in issue, both the ICC and FMC required that a party subject to the jurisdiction of the respective commissions publish tariffs and assess only those rates contained in said tariffs. See 49 U.S.C. § 10761(a) (1982); 46 U.S.C. § 817 (1982).

Once the tariff is published, the rate is no longer merely the rate imposed by the carrier; it becomes the rate imposed by law. (Southern Pacific Co. v. Brown, Alcantar & Brown, Inc. (5th Cir. 1969), 409 F.2d 1331, 1332.) Tariffs have the force and effect of statutes (American Ry. Express Co. v. American Trust Co. (7th Cir. 1931), 47 F.2d 16, 18), and a shipper is conclusively ...

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