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U.S. Supreme Court

Andrew G. Nelson, Inc. v. United States, 355 U.S. 554 (1958)

Andrew G. Nelson, Inc. v. United States

No. 16

Argued December 11, 1957

Decided March 3, 1958

355 U.S. 554


Under the "grandfather clause" of § 209(a) of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted contract carrier permits to appellant and its predecessor. Subsequently, after a hearing, the Commission interpreted "stock in trade of drug stores," a commodity description in appellant's permit, to authorize carriage of only those goods which at time of movement are, or are intended to become, part of the stock in trade of a drugstore. On the basis of this interpretation, the Commission issued an appropriate cease and desist order prohibiting carriage of unauthorized goods.

Held: the Commission's order is sustained. Pp. 355 U. S. 555-562

(a) There being no patent ambiguity or specialized trade usage involved, the ordinary meaning of the words used in the commodity description is controlling. Pp. 355 U. S. 557-558.

(b) The Commission's intent in issuing the permit is not to be ascertained from evidence unknown to the Commission at the time of its issuance. P. 557, n 3.

(c) The Commission's interpretation of "stock in trade of drug stores" is not clearly erroneous, and therefore it must be sustained. Pp. 355 U. S. 558-560.

(d) Since the Commission's interpretation accords with the plain meaning of the commodity description, it is immaterial whether the Commission had ever applied the intended use restriction prior to issuance of this permit. Retroactive application here, if any, of such restrictions could not prejudice appellant. Pp. 355 U. S. 560-561.

(e) If the permit, as thus construed, is not as broad as the operations carried on by appellant's predecessor prior to the Act, appellant's remedy is to petition the Commission to reopen the grandfather proceedings; the permit cannot be attacked collaterally in a proceeding for its violation. Pp. 355 U. S. 561-562.

(f) Appellant's arguments based on noncompliance with the Administrative Procedure Act have no merit. P. 355 U. S. 562.

150 F.Supp. 181, affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 355 U. S. 555

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