Hewitt-Robins, Incorporated v. Eastern Freight-Ways, Inc.

PETITIONER: Hewitt-Robins, Incorporated
RESPONDENT: Eastern Freight-Ways, Inc.
LOCATION: Clauson's Inn

DOCKET NO.: 37
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 371 US 84 (1962)
ARGUED: Oct 11, 1962
DECIDED: Nov 19, 1962

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Hewitt-Robins, Incorporated v. Eastern Freight-Ways, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 1962 in Hewitt-Robins, Incorporated v. Eastern Freight-Ways, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 37, Hewitt-Robins Incorporated, Petitioner, versus Eastern Freight-Ways, Incorporated.

Mr. Teichner.

Harry Teichner:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case presents the question whether the common law action for damages sustained by a shipper by reason of motor carrier misrouting of a shipment of goods has survived the passage of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, which is part 2 of the Interstate Commerce Act.

The general situation is not one of novel impression with this Court because this Court had occasion to go into the Motor Carrier Act to 1959 in a case entitled T.I.M.E. Incorporated against United States.

This is an action brought by a shipper of goods against a common carrier by motor vehicle to recover damages for a misrouting of its goods.

During the years 1952 -- 1953 and 1954, the plaintiff in the action, the petitioner here delivered some goods, 350 shipments to the defendant, the respondent here, for transportation between Buffalo, New York and New York City, New York.

These goods consisted of foam rubber pads.

The respondent motor carrier was certificated and had operating rights both interstate and intrastate between those two points.

It had filed tariffs with the Interstate Commerce Commission for its intrastate route between Buffalo and New York and it had also filed tariffs with the Public Service Commission of the State of New York similarly for the transportation of that commodity wholly intrastate.

Now, the rates that were filed for the interstate movement were higher than those for the intrastate movement.

These shipments were tended unrouted to the carrier.

The carrier chose to move these shipments via its higher rated interstate route instead of the cheaper intrastate route and the effect of that was that the petitioner had to pay $10,000 more for the movement.

Thereupon, the petitioner instituted a suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking to recover the sum of $10,000 as damages for the misrouting of its shipments claiming that it had a right to have the carrier move the shipments via the cheapest route.

In its complaint, the petitioner requested that the determination of the action be held in abeyance pending the filing of a complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission to have a determination as to whether or not the practice of the carrier was a reasonable one and to have a determination as to what were the reasonable rates.

The respondent filed an answer and in its answer, set up as one of its defenses that it could not transport these shipments over the lower rated intrastate route because of certain difficulties.

Thereupon, I filed the complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission and I set forth the facts and I asked for a determination as to what were the reasonable rates and what would a reasonable practice under the circumstances.

In other words, I sought from the Commission, a determination as to whether or not the intrastate route was a reasonable one or whether it was an unreasonable one.

The action of the District Court was held in abeyance and a full hearing was had before the Interstate Commerce Commission on that administrative issue.

The Interstate Commerce Commission made a decision and held that the intrastate route was a wholly feasible route and that the carrier should have moved these shipments over the intrastate route so that the shipper could have had the benefit of the lower rate.

Now, when that decision came down, the carrier felt aggrieved and thereupon instituted a suit in the District Court of New Jersey against the United States of America and against the Interstate Commerce Commission and asked for an annulment of the Commission's decision on the ground that it was not supported by the evidence or record.

That suit was tried in the District Court of New Jersey, but before the court made a decision and while the action was still pending in the District Court of New York, this Court decided the T.I.M.E. case.

Now in the T.I.M.E. case, this Court decided that a shipper of goods by a certificated motor carrier cannot challenge in post-shipment litigation, the reasonableness of the carrier's charges which were made in accordance with the tariff governing the shipment.

Thereupon, the carrier made a motion in the District Court of New York in this action for summary judgment on the theory that the T.I.M.E. case was authority for a dismissal of the complaint on the ground that a justiciable issue was not presented upon which relief could be granted.

That motion was granted and Judge Bicks, District Court Judge Bicks who wrote the opinion in the matter, stated that in view of the fact that a referral to the Commission was necessary on the administrative issue as to the reasonableness of the intrastate route, therefore, the Interstate Commerce Commission had no jurisdiction in the matter and the District Court had no jurisdiction of the matter.

An appeal was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

That court affirmed, Judge Moore dissented.

The majority of the Court likewise felt that T.I.M.E. compelled a dismissal of the complaint.

It is our position that T.I.M.E. does not authorize a dismissal of the complaint in this case.

We contend that T.I.M.E. merely went to the question as to whether or not intrinsic reasonableness has an issue on the case would prevent the Interstate Commerce Commission from taking jurisdiction as well as the courts.