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Silvers v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co.

Decided: December 17, 1965.

SID SILVERS AND SHIRLEE SILVERS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Gaulkin, Labrecque and Brown. The opinion of the court was delivered by Labrecque, J.A.D.

Labrecque

Plaintiffs appeal from the amount of a judgment entered in the Essex County District Court in their favor for loss of certain baggage entrusted to a red cap porter employed by defendant Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

On January 5, 1961 plaintiffs arrived at the Pennsylvania Station, Newark, en route to Florida. They had with them nine pieces of luggage which a red cap porter unloaded directly from the trunk of their car onto a cart. The red cap delivered a baggage ticket for each bag and the fees for the service were paid.

When the baggage was delivered to plaintiffs' compartment on the "Florida Special" only seven of the nine pieces could be found. The two missing pieces were never returned and presumably stolen.

At the trial defendant stipulated that it was liable for the loss. The question for determination was whether the liability of defendant extended to the full value of the items lost or whether it was limited to $50 per bag. Plaintiffs contend that the missing bags contained, among other things, a camera and a sapphire ring and that they had a value in excess of $1,000. Defendant has stipulated that their value was $1,000, but contends that its liability is limited to $50 per bag.

Defendant bases its claim of limited liability upon Interstate Commerce Commission Released Rates Order No. 1159 and Local and Joint Passenger Tariff R.C. No. 19 (ICC No. 218) dated April 5, 1957 and entitled, "Charges, Rules and Regulations for the Handling of Passengers' Hand Baggage and Other Personal Effects by Station Porters ('Red Caps')." In effect, it provides that a carrier's liability shall not exceed $50 for each article of hand baggage or personal effects unless the owner completes an "Excess Value Declaration" and pays an additional charge of 20 cents per $100 of value per bag or fraction thereof above the 35-cent minimum charge, with a limit of $500 maximum insurable.

Order No. 1159 required the carrier to have printed on each baggage check a notice of limitation of liability and to post signs to that effect in a form prescribed by the order in no less than two conspicuous places in the terminal. Defendant established that the claim checks issued to Mr. Silvers bore the legend:

"IT IS AGREED THAT THE CARRIER'S LIABILITY IS LIMITED TO NOT MORE THAN $50.00 FOR THE ARTICLE OF HAND BAGGAGE OR OTHER PERSONAL EFFECTS, INCLUDING CONTENTS COVERED BY THIS RECEIPT UNLESS A GREATER VALUE IS DECLARED IN WRITING ON FORM PROVIDED FOR THAT PURPOSE. PLEASE SEE REVERSE SIDE."

There was also proof that three of the signs required by the regulation had been posted in defendant's Newark station, two on the side walls of the baggage room and one in the information booth in the center of the main waiting room. The trial judge determined that the regulation had been complied with and that the limitation of liability provision precluded recovery by plaintiffs beyond the sum of $50 per bag. The judgment for $100 followed and plaintiffs appeal.

The question here involved is whether defendant, by promulgating the tariffs, posting the notices and wording its baggage checks in the manner referred to, effectively limited the extent of its liability for the loss of plaintiffs' baggage,

notwithstanding plaintiffs' lack of actual knowledge of such limitation. ...


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