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Chesapeake & Ohio Railway v. Martin

United States Supreme Court
283 U.S. 209 (1931)


Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (Chesapeake) (defendant) agreed to ship a load of potatoes from Michigan to Virginia for Martin (plaintiff). Under the bill of lading, any claim for loss had to be brought within six months “after a reasonable time for delivery.” The potatoes were delivered to the wrong warehouse six days after shipment and had spoiled by the time Martin found them. Six months and 20 days after the shipment, Martin sued Chesapeake in Virginia court. At trial, a Chesapeake employee testified that a reasonable time for shipment would be eight days. The employee was not cross-examined on the issue, and no evidence was offered to refute the assertion. Chesapeake demurred, which is the same as a motion for a directed verdict under Virginia law. The demurrer was overruled, and a jury verdict was returned in favor of Martin. The appellate court affirmed. Chesapeake petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari, which was granted to consider the federal question involving the bill of lading under the Interstate Commerce Act.

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