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SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY v. CLIFT.

decided: December 4, 1922.

SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
CLIFT.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA.

Author: Mckenna

[ 260 U.S. Page 318]

 MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.

The case is concerned with a statute of Indiana under which judgment was obtained against the Railway Company upon a claim for damage to property which it received for transportation within the State.

A motion is made by defendant in error to dismiss the writ of error, this Court, it is contended, being without jurisdiction. The grounds of the motion are specified as follows: (1) The judgment at the time the transcript was filed had not become final. (2) It did not decide any federal question.

To sustain the first ground, it is said, that under the law of the State, within sixty days after the termination of the case by the Supreme Court "either party may file a

[ 260 U.S. Page 319]

     petition for a rehearing." [Burns' Revision, 1914, ยง 704.] From this it is deduced and contended that the successful as well as the unsuccessful party in the action may file a petition for rehearing and that until the expiration of the time for the exercise of the right the judgment does not become final. The contention is curious. Legal procedure is a facility of rights and, rights achieved, its purpose is done. A successful litigant does not need the delay and provision of a rehearing. He has more efficient and enduring relief. His affliction may be solaced by not enforcing the victory which is the cause of it. The contention of defendant in error is so obviously untenable that further comment upon it would be the veriest supererogation.

In support of the second ground it is pointed out that the judgment to which the writ of error is directed was rendered on a second appeal and that the court decided that the decision "on the first appeal is the law of the case." It is hence asserted that it was res judicata and precluded dispute, and that, therefore, the decision rested upon an independent ground not involving a federal question and broad enough to maintain the judgment. For this Northern Pacific R.R. Co. v. Ellis, 144 U.S. 458, 464, is cited. That case does not determine this one. That case was constrained by the law of the State; such constraint does not exist in the present case. The constitutional question involved was considered and decided. The prior ruling may have been followed as the law of the case but there is a difference between such adherence and res judicata; one directs discretion, the other supersedes it and compels judgment. In other words, in one it is a question of power, in the other of submisssion. Remington v. Central Pacific R.R. Co., 198 U.S. 95, 99; Messenger v. Anderson, 225 U.S. 436, 444. The court in the present case, as we have said, considered the constitutional question presented and decided against it, and to

[ 260 U.S. Page 320]

     review its decision is the purpose of this writ of error. The motion to dismiss is denied.

The merits of the case are concerned with the validity of a statute of the State of Indiana passed in 1911 [Acts 1911, c. 183] providing for the presentation of claims for loss or damage to freight transported wholly within the State.

A section of the act requires the claimant to present his claim within four months, and another section (3) prescribes the action and the time of action of the railroad company. It is as follows: "That every claim for loss of or damage to freight transported wholly between points within the State of Indiana may be presented to the agent of the carrier who issued the receipt or bill of lading therefor or to the freight agent or representative of such carrier at the point of destination, or to any freight agent of any carrier in whose possession such freight was when lost or damaged, and when so presented shall be paid or rejected by such carrier within ninety days therefrom, and if neither paid nor rejected in whole or in part within such time, such claim shall stand admitted as a liability due and payable to the full amount thereof against any such carrier, and may be recovered in any court having competent jurisdiction. . . ."

The assignments of error assail the quoted section as offensive to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and in specification it is contended that the judgment of the court in sustaining the statute and in rendering judgment against the Company for the full amount of the claim presented, together with interest, upon the pleadings in the case, denied to the Company the right to defend ...


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