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Troutman v. Southern Railway Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
441 F.2d 586 (1971)


When the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) directed Southern Railway Company (Southern) (defendant) to increase shipping rates in 1963, Southern asked attorney Robert Troutman, Jr. (plaintiff) to appeal to the federal government on its behalf. The ICC order was likely to cause substantial financial harm to Southern, which initiated a lawsuit challenging the order. Southern engaged Troutman because he was a personal friend of President John F. Kennedy and had access to other government officials. Southern asked him to make a case before the President and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the ICC order was not in the national interest. In exchange, Southern promised to consider developing property with Troutman. Troutman’s efforts worked: the DOJ filed an opposition to the ICC in Southern’s court action, and the order was struck down. After it grew clear that Southern would not join Troutman in his proposed property development, Troutman sued Southern to recover the reasonable value of services rendered to it. Southern defended the suit on the grounds that its contract with Troutman was unenforceable because it violated public policy. At trial, the court denied a motion for directed verdict by Southern. The jury reached a verdict for Troutman, and Southern appealed.

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