THE use of tickets by railroad companies has in the last thirty years given great and increasing legal significance to that species of document. Yet, in spite of the many cases in which questions arising from the use of tickets have been discussed, no attempt has been made to determine the exact legal status of a ticket; and much confusion has resulted from a failure to distinguish instruments properly called tickets from mere receipts or vouchers. Before discussing at large the points at issue it will be necessary to propose an accurate definition of a ticket.
A ticket is a formal document, valid and interpretable by some well-known business custom, requiring the party issuing it to do something, or to give something, not money, to the bearer at or within a certain time. It secures a future right to the bearer; thus differing from a receipt or voucher, which merely proves a right already secured.
The tickets in general use fall into four classes. By far the most important class consists of tickets which entitle the bearer to the service of the maker as carrier. Of this class two sorts of tickets are used: railroad tickets and postage-stamps. A class of tickets very similar to these consists of tickets admitting the bearer to some place of amusement, there to be entertained; the typical ticket of this sort is a theatre ticket. A third class consists of tickets entitling the bearer to a chance in a lottery. Finally, there is a class of tickets, of slight pecuniary value, entitling the bearer to food or drink: dinner tickets, soup tickets, soda tickets, and the like.
These tickets differ, of course, in detail; but they all agree in essentials, and, principally, they are all contracts. This has always been recognized in the case of lottery tickets and theatre tickets. In the case of railroad tickets, however, there has been some difference of opinion.
The whole difficulty arose from two important cases, decided in New York thirty years ago by the Court of Appeals, in which
- Homer v. Whitman, 15 Mass. l32; McLaughlin v. Waite, 5 Wend. 404; Shankland v. Corporation of Washington, 5 Pet. 390.
- McCrae v. Marsh, 12 Gray, 211; Burton v. Scherpf, 1 All. 133.