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Beaumont v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co.

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

June 21, 1954

HELENE M. BEAUMONT, Respondent-Appellant,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY et al., Appellants-Respondents.

Page 355

CROSS APPEALS from a judgment of the Supreme Court in the amount of $84,634.21, in favor of plaintiff and against the defendants Pennsylvania Railroad Company and Florida East Coast Railway Company and the latter's trustees, entered December 10, 1953, in New York County upon a decision of the court at a Trial Term (AURELIO, J.), without a jury. The defendants appeal from the judgment, except insofar as it dismissed the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth causes of action, which were asserted against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company only. Plaintiff appeals from so much of the judgment as dismissed said causes of action.

COUNSEL

Paul D. Compton of counsel (Robert T. Dawson with him on the brief; Rein, Mound & Cotton, attorneys), for respondent-appellant.

Edward F. Butler of counsel (Conboy, Hewitt, O'Brien & Boardman, attorneys), for appellants-respondents.

COHN, J.

These cross-appeals involve the question of whether interstate railroads can by their tariffs limit their liability for

Page 356

loss of passenger baggage to passenger's declared value thereof, and whether they may prohibit the inclusion of jewelry in passenger baggage and exempt themselves from liability for such carriage.

The stipulated facts are as follows: On May 19, 1945, at West Palm Beach, Florida, plaintiff by her agent checked through with defendant Florida East Coast Railway Company as the initial carrier nine trunks containing plaintiff's property as baggage on four first-class passenger tickets for transportation to New York City. The trunks arrived at their destination on May 21, 1945, defendant Pennsylvania Railroad Company being the final carrier. On May 25, 1945, when plaintiff made demand for her trunks in New York City, it was discovered that two could not be found. Defendants were unable to account for their loss. The two missing trunks contained property belonging to plaintiff worth $55,839.50, consisting of jewelry valued at $39,152.50, and wearing apparel valued at $16,687.

At the time the trunks were checked with defendant Florida East Coast Railway Company at West Palm Beach, plaintiff's agent signed a baggage declaration in which $400 was specifically declared to be the valuation of all nine trunks, calculated at the rate of $100 for each of the four passenger tickets. This declaration specifically provided that in the event of a loss any recovery would be limited to $100 for each of the four tickets or prorated in case of partial loss. Plaintiff's agent paid no additional valuation charge although the declaration permitted additional insurance up to a maximum of $2,500 per ticket upon the payment of an extra charge. Plaintiff, if she chose, could have declared a total valuation up to $10,000, i.e., $2,500 for each of the four tickets. Instead she elected to take the minimum valuation and thus avoided paying any excess valuation charges.

The tariff covering the shipment involved was Tariff No. 15, I. C. C. No. H-4459; it had been filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission and kept open for public inspection in compliance with section 6 of the Interstate Commerce Act (U. S. Code, tit. 49, ยง 6).

After trial without a jury plaintiff was awarded a judgment of $84,634.21, which represented the loss claimed plus interest and costs.

The complaint contains ten causes of action.

The first cause of action against Florida East Coast Railway Company and its trustees, alleges that said defendants received and agreed to transport ...


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