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UNION PACIFIC RY. CO. V. GOODRIDGE, 149 U. S. 680 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Union Pacific Ry. Co. v. Goodridge, 149 U.S. 680 (1893)

Union Pacific Railway Company v. Goodridge

No. 211

Argued April 14, 17, 1893

Decided May 15, 1893

149 U.S. 680

Syllabus

It is no proper business of a railway company as common carrier to foster particular enterprises or to build up new industries, but, deriving its franchises from the legislature and depending upon the will of the people for its very existence, it is bound to deal fairly with the public, to extend them reasonable facilities for the transportation of their persons and property, and to put all its patrons upon an absolute equality.

It is no defense to an action against a railway company under the statute of Colorado of 1880 to recover triple damages for an unjust discrimination in freights, to set up a contract for a rebate in case of furnishing a certain amount for transportation without also alleging and showing that such an amount was furnished.

An unexplained, indefinite, and unadjusted claim for damages arising from a tort, which, though put forward, had never been pressed, is no defense in such an action.

Sundry objections to testimony are held to be without merit.

This was an action at law by the firm of Goodridge & Marfell, coal merchants, carrying on the business of mining coal at Erie, Colorado, and of selling same at Denver, against the Union Pacific Railway Company, to recover triple damages under a statute of Colorado for an alleged unjust discrimination in freights upon coal from Erie to Denver.

The statute which was the basis of this action, together with a corresponding clause of the state constitution of Colorado, so far as the same are material to this case, are set forth in the margin. * chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 149 U. S. 681

The amended complaint alleged the defendant to be a common carrier, chartered by an act of Congress, and operating a line of railroad from Erie and Marshall at both of which were located certain coal mines, about thirty-five miles, to Denver; that if there were any difference in distance, it was in favor of Erie, by about two miles, and that the published chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 149 U. S. 682

schedule of freights for coal was the same, namely, one dollar per ton from each place; that plaintiffs, while operating their coal mines from Erie, between October 31, 1885, and August 12, 1887, shipped to Denver 12,960 tons and 1,625 pounds of coal, for which they paid defendant $12,960 and a fraction, being at the rate of one dollar a ton, believing that such was the regular schedule rate charged the general public and all parties similarly situated for such service, there being no difference or discrimination between such rates as between Erie and Marshall to Denver; that the Marshall Consolidated Coal Mining Company at the same time operated coal mines at Marshall, and was engaged in shipping coal over defendant's road to Denver under the same circumstances as the plaintiffs, except as to rates, and was a competitor with the plaintiffs; that the amount of such shipments was about 145,833 tons, the defendant charging such company sixty cents per ton, and allowing a rebate of forty cents from its schedule rates; that plaintiffs are informed such rebates amounted to upwards of $58,000, and that the defendant in this manner, without the approval of the railroad commissioner, demanded and received from the plaintiffs the sum of $5,184.30 more than it received from the Marshall Consolidated Coal Mining Company (hereinafter called the Marshall Company) for like services, upon like conditions and under similar circumstances, without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiffs; that the defendant in this manner, and to this extent, allowed the Marshall Company drawbacks or rebates for carrying its coal, which were not open to and allowed all companies and corporations alike at the same rate per ton per mile; that these rebates were made secretly and clandestinely in favor of the Marshall Company, with the design to deceive and mislead the plaintiffs, and fraudulently conceal from them the facts relating to such rebates, and did so conceal them until about August 12, 1887; and that the plaintiffs were misled and deceived by these devices and practices, and remained in ignorance of the same until such data.

The plaintiffs further alleged that defendant had granted other parties, similarly situated, the same rebates for the chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 149 U. S. 683

carrying of coal over its road from Marshall, and further charged that all the coal shipped by the plaintiffs and the Marshall Company was about the same quality, and cost the defendant the same amount to handle and ship over its lines, and that the charges made by the defendant were unreasonable, unjust, and extortionate; that plaintiffs had demanded of defendant reimbursement of the overcharges, which had been refused, by reason of which they asked judgment in the sum of $15,552.90, being three times the amount alleged to have been extorted at the rate of forty cents per ton on all coal shipped by them.

The answer set up a general denial of each and every material allegation in the complaint, and special denials that defendant had allowed the Marshall Company a rebate of forty cents per ton, or that it had charged plaintiffs more than it had charged the Marshall Company for like services. For a second defense, the defendant alleged that in January, 1880, the Denver, Western & Pacific Railway Company, a Colorado corporation, was engaged in building a railroad from Denver to Boulder, and in so doing passed over certain coal lands belonging to one Langford and others, known as the "Marshall Coal Mine;" that in constructing its line, it negligently broke into the mine, in consequence of which it was claimed the mine took fire, and destroyed large amounts of coal, and continued to burn for several months, to recover which damages suits were instituted by the owners of the mine against the railroad company, which were litigated for several years; that in addition to such damages, the company had failed to obtain a right of way across the mining lands; that in January, 1882, a judgment was also obtained against the company, in the sum of $64,000, upon a mechanic's lien, of which judgment the Union Pacific subsequently became the owner, as well as of a large number of the bonds of the said company; that the road was subsequently sold, and came into the hands of the Union Pacific, and in 1885 a corporation was formed under the name of Denver, Marshall and Boulder Railway Company, which was owned and controlled by the Union Pacific, and which proceeded to construct its road from chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 149 U. S. 684

Denver to Boulder, and that the claim against the Denver, Western and Pacific had become, and still remained, a lien upon the property in the hands of the Denver, Marshall and Boulder Company; that in 1885, the said Langford and others sold the Marshall coal mine to the Marshall Company, which thus became the owner of