Pierce Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 236 U.S. 278 (1915)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Pierce Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 236 U.S. 278 (1915)

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George N. Pierce Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Company

No. 14

Argued December 8, 1913
Restored to docket October 26, 1914
Reargued January 7, 1915
Decided February 23, 1915
236 U.S. 278



One who deliberately, without fraud or imposition, accepts a contract of shipment limiting the recovery to a valuation specified in the filed tariff, but who is given the privilege of paying increased rates for increased valuation and liability up to full amount as also specified in the filed tariff, is limited in case of loss to recover the specified amount.

Contracts for limited liability, when fairly made, do not contravene the settled principles of the common law preventing the carrier from contracting against liability for its own negligence. Hart v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 112 U.S. 331.

Under the provisions of the Act to Regulate Commerce in regard to filing tariffs and the Carmack Amendment of 1906 to that Act, the amount to which the liability of the carrier is limited and the additional rate for additional liability must be stated in the filed tariff, and must be equally applicable to all shippers under like circumstances.

The legality of a contract limiting the carrier’s liability to a specified or agreed valuation does not depend upon that valuation’s having a relation to the value of the shipment, but depends upon acceptance of the parties to the contract and upon the filed tariff and the requirement of the shipper to take notice thereof and to be bound thereby.

If the filed tariff specifies an amount as the carrier’s liability which is unreasonable, it is for the Interstate Commerce Commission to correct upon proper proceedings, but it stands until so corrected, and all shippers under like circumstances must be treated alike.

While the fifty dollar limit of value of the shipment and of express companies’ liability for shipments of undeclared value at regular rates has been modified by the Commission since the shipment in this case, it was then the filed tariff limitation, and the shipper was bound to take notice thereof, and to permit a greater recovery than the amount specified in the filed tariff would result in the very favoritism towards him that it is the purpose of the anti-discrimination provisions in the Act to Regulate Commerce to avoid.

The rule that conclusiveness of filed tariff rates does not relate to attempted fraudulent acts or billings has no application where, as in this case, the transaction was open and aboveboard and the character of the goods was known to both parties, and the shipper was competent to agree to the lower valuation in consideration of the lower rate.

A contention as to liability of the carrier for value of wreckage which was not presented on the pleadings nor involved in the disposition of the case by the court below cannot be considered here.

189 F. 561 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the validity of clauses in express receipts limiting the liability of the carrier to a fixed amount in absence of declared valuation and payment of a higher rate, are stated in the opinion.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Pierce Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 236 U.S. 278 (1915) in 236 U.S. 278 236 U.S. 279. Original Sources, accessed June 4, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D9ZR426M4KGESKJ.

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Pierce Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 236 U.S. 278 (1915), in 236 U.S. 278, page 236 U.S. 279. Original Sources. 4 Jun. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D9ZR426M4KGESKJ.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Pierce Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 236 U.S. 278 (1915). cited in 1915, 236 U.S. 278, pp.236 U.S. 279. Original Sources, retrieved 4 June 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D9ZR426M4KGESKJ.