Canada Packers, Ltd. v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company

PETITIONER: Canada Packers, Ltd.
RESPONDENT: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co., et al.
LOCATION: Canada Packers LTD. Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 385 US 182 (1966)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1966 / Nov 09, 1966
DECIDED: Dec 05, 1966
GRANTED: Feb 21, 1966

Charles B. Myers - for the petitioner
Harvey Huston - for the respondents

Facts of the case

Several American railroad companies delivered 131 cars of potash from New Mexico to Canada Packers’ plants in Canada. Canada Packers agreed to, and paid, a joint through international rate for the shipment. Later, Canada Packers’ sued the railroads for reparations citing the international rate as unreasonable. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered the railroads to pay reparations to make up for the unreasonably low original payment. The railroads refused to pay for the part of the journey that took place in Canada, arguing that the ICC had no authority to regulate shipping rates outside the U.S.A. The district court ruled in favor of Canada Packers and the court of appeals reversed.


Does the Interstate Commerce Commission have the power to determine a reasonable shipping rate outside the United States?

Media for Canada Packers, Ltd. v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1966 in Canada Packers, Ltd. v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 08, 1966 in Canada Packers, Ltd. v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company

Earl Warren:

Number 11, Canada Packers Limited, Petitioner, versus the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company, et al.

Mr. Myers.

Charles B. Myers:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The question in this case is, to what extent does the Interstate Commerce Commission have jurisdiction to make an award of reparation to a shipper, who has been required to pay unreasonably high joint through international rates on its traffic from points in the United States to points of Canada?

This case had its origin in an informal complaint which we filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1950.

That complaint alleged that the international through rates from Carlsbad and Loving, New Mexico to our plants at Toronto in Welland and Ontario Province and in -- at Montreal in Quebec Province, and at Saint John in Brunswick were unreasonable and we prayed for reparation.

Now, the shipments in question moved during the period of January 5 to May 5, 1948 and over the lines of the respondent railroads and two Canadian railroads.

It was during this period that the railroads had assessed at 20% increase in all their rates on potash.

And that increase was only an emergency increase authorized by the Interstate Commerce Commission.

The Commission later determined effective May 6, that the maximum increase on such shipments should be 20% but in no case more than $1.60 a ton.

Now, perhaps I can illustrate what's involved.

The basic rate from Carlsbad to Toronto was $12.20 a ton.

When that rate was increased by the temporary increased of 20%, it went up to $14.64.

When the Commission decided what the maximum permit increase was with $1.60 a ton that rate on May 6.

It came a $13.80 a ton.

Our complaint before the Commission asked that we be awarded reparation for the difference between the $14.64 and the $13.80.

Now, that same proposition was pending in number of cases before the Commission on potash and public commodities as well.

One of those cases was Consolidated Rendering versus the Santa Fe Railroad.

The Commission decided that Consolidated Rendering case in 1957 and among the destinations involved in that case, destination of potash were car of -- I think this is also from Loving and Carlsbad New Mexico and the destinations involved included Detroit and Port Huron, Michigan.

Now those two points are border points through which all of our traffic moved in route to Canada.

The Commission held there as we had hope they would in our case that the shippers were entitled to reparation or the increase rates exceeded the basic rates plus $1.60 a ton and they awarded reparation.

Now, the railroads refused to satisfy our informal complaint and that required us to bring the form of complaint with the Commission in which we made the same allegations as we did in the informal pleading.

After hearing, the Commission decided in our case as it did in the Consolidated Rendering case and awarded us reparation for the entire difference between the joint through international rates which bore the 20% increase and what would have been reasonable joint through international rates increased by the $1.60 a ton.

The respondents refused to pay all of that award.

They paid us $5,300.00 but decline us -- decline to pay us the remaining $1,400.00 on the ground that that represented freight charges for transportation in Canada and that was beyond the Commission's jurisdiction.

William O. Douglas:

Was that arrived at by on the basis of the expected contributions made in American --

Charles B. Myers:

Quite frankly --

William O. Douglas:

-- and to be assigned by the carrier on this approval?

Charles B. Myers:

Quite frankly sir, I don't know how it was arrived at.

I think that's the railroad explanation, yes.