This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
In contracts with common carriers the written offer frequently consists of a bill of lading, a receipt, a ticket, and the like; and this is accepted by the party to whom it is offered without his reading it and without his having actual knowledge of the terms thereof. Whether contracts of this sort are to be governed by the general rule applicable to written offers which charge the offeree with knowledge of the terms of such offers which are fairly brought to his attention,1 or whether contracts of this sort are to be governed by applying principles of their own, is a question which has been presented for adjudication frequently, and upon which there is a conflict of authority. In many of these cases, whatever the theory may be, the offeree does not have a fair opportunity under the actual circumstances, to read the contract which is offered to him, to say nothing of comprehending the terms of such contract which are frequently involved and complex. The contract is frequently offered by the common carrier for the purpose of limiting or avoiding its common-law liability; and this purpose is one which many courts are not disposed to encourage.2 Frequently the instrument which is offered is in the nature of a receipt or voucher and does not, at first glance, purport to contain contractual terms. In some cases the written instrument is not offered until after an oral contract has been made between the carrier and the adversary party; and the carrier is attempting to avoid both his common-law liability and his liability under the oral contract by such written contract.
12 B. F. Sturtevant Co. v. Fireproof Film Co., 216 N. Y. 199, L. R. A. 1916D, 1069, 110 N. E. 440.
13Poel v. Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., 216 N. Y. 310, 110 N. E. 619.
14 Mishwaka Woolen Mfg. Co. v. Stan ton, 188 Mich. 237, L. R. A. 1917B, 651, 154 N. W. 48; Williamson v. North of Scotland and Orkney and Shetland Steam Navigation Co. (1916), 1 S. L. T. R. 228 (1916), S. C. 554, which was a case of a steamship ticket and therefore governed by different considerations. See Sec. 113.
15 Mishwaka Woolen Mfg. Co. v. Stanton, 188 Mich. 237, L. R. A. 1917B, 651, 154 N. W. 48.
16 Burrill v. Dollar Savings Bank, 92 Pa. St. 134, 37 Am. Rep. 669.
17 Donahue v. Woodbury, 60 Mass. (6 Cush.) 148.
18 Donahue v. Woodbury, 60 Mass. (6 Cush.) 148.
In spite of these considerations, it seems to be held by the weight of authority that such contracts, at least those instruments which purport on their face to be contracts, are to be governed by the general principles of contract law; and that the offeree who accepts is bound by the terms of the written contract which he has accepted, whether he knows what such terms are or not.3 This rule has been applied to the terms of a bill of lading,4 or to the terms of a passenger ticket in contract form,5 which are fairly brought to the attention of the adversary party. Accordingly, where a ticket is purchased with full opportunity for examination, such as a steamship ticket, it is presumed that the purchaser knows its contents.6 This rule has been applied even if the passenger can not read.7
1 See Sec. 112.
2 See ch. XXIV.
3 Boylan v. Hot Springs Ry. Co., 132 U. S. 146; 33 L. ed. 290; French v. Merchants' & Miners' Transportation Co., 199 Mass. 433, 127 Am. St. Rep. 606, 19 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1006, 85 N. E. 424; Aradalou v. New York, New Haven & Hartford R. Co., 225 Mass. 235, 114 N. E. 297; Cincinnati, Hamilton ft Dayton R. Co. v. Pontius, 19 O. S. 221; Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Craig, - Okla. - , 157 Ac. 87.
4 England. Austin v. Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire R. R. Co., 10 C. B. 464.
United States. Bank v. Express Co., 93 U. S. 174, 23 L. ed. 872; Adams Exp.
Co. v. Croninger, 226 U. S. 491, 57 L. ed. 314, 44 L. R. A. (N.S.) 257.
Alabama. Western Ry. v. Harwell, 91 Ala. 340, 8 So. 649; Central, of Georgia, R. R. v. Burton, 165 Ala. 425, 51 So. 643.
Arkansas. St. Louis, I. M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Weakly, 50 Ark. 397, 7 Am. St. Rep. 104, 8 S. W. 134.
Illinois. Coats v. Chicago, R. I. & P. Ry., 239 111. 154, 87 N. E. 929.
Iowa. Mulligan v. I. C. Ry. Co., 36 la. 181, 14 Am. Rep. 514.
Massachusetts. Grace v. Adams, 100 Mass. 505, 1 Am. Rep. 131, 97 Am. Dec. 117; McKinney v. Boston, M., R. Ry. 217 Mass. 274, 104 N. E. 446.
Michigan. McMillan v. Ry., 16 Mich. 79, 93 Am. Dec. 208.
Where this view obtains and terms printed in obscure type on the face of the ticket, or printed on the back, are sought to be incorporated in the contract of transportation, the rules determining liability are as follows: (1) If the person taking the ticket or bill of lading knows what the terms and conditions thus offered are, he is bound thereby.8 A similar rule applies to bills of lading.9
Minnesota. Hutchinson v. Chicago, St. P., M. & O. Ry., 37 Minn. 524, 35 N. W. 433.
Missouri. Kellerman v. Kansas City, St. J. A C. B. Ry. Co., 136 Mo. 177, 34 S. W. 41, 37 S. W. 828.
Oklahoma. St. Louis & S. F. R. Co. v. Ladd, 33 Okla. 160, 124 Ac. 461.
Vermont. Leavens v. American Express Co., 86 Vt. 342, 85 Atl. 557. Washington. Davis v. Northern Pacific Ry. Co., 77 Wash. 261, 137 Ac. 464.
Wisconsin. Schaller v. Ry., 97 Wis. 31, 71 N. W. 1042.
5United States. Boylan v. Hot Springs Ry. Co., 132 U. S. 146, 33 L. ed. 290.
Georgia. Wenz v. Savannah, F. & W. Ry., 108 Ga. 290, 33 S. E. 970.
Kansas. Freeman v. Atchison, T. & & S. F. Ry. Co., 71 Kan. 327, 6 Am. & Eng. Ann. Cas. 118, 80 Ac. 592.
Massachusetts. French v. Merchants' & Miners' Transportation Co., 199 Mass. 433, 127 Am. St. Rep. 506. 19 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1006, 85 N. E. 424.
Montana. SanDen v. Northern Pacific Ry. Co., 43 Mont. 200. 34 L. R. A. (N.S.) 711, 115 Ac. 408.
New Hampshire. Eastman v. Maine Cent. R., 70 N. H. 240, 46 Atl. 54.
Tennessee. Watson v. Louisville & N. Ry., 104 Tenn. 194, 49 L. R.A. 453, 56 S. W. 1024.