Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/26

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the nature of a railroad ticket was carefully debated. The first of these cases was Hibbard v. R. R. Co.[1] Hibbard took passage on the cars of the defendant company, having a ticket which, on demand, he showed to the conductor. The conductor afterwards asked again to see the ticket, but Hibbard refused to show it. He, however, assured the conductor that he had a ticket; so did several other passengers who had seen the ticket. It did not appear that the conductor himself did not remember that Hibbard had already showed his ticket; but Hibbard persisted in his refusal, and the conductor ejected him from the train.

The question before the court, therefore, was merely whether the rule of the company, requiring passengers to show their tickets whenever requested, was a reasonable one. But the court considered the nature of the ticket, and the general opinion seemed to be expressed by Denio, C. J., who said that a ticket was “a receipt for the payment of fare.” Brown, J., went further. “The ticket,” he said, “is the property of the railroad company, and is a part of the means by which it conducts its business. It is delivered to the passenger to be held by him, temporarily, for a special purpose, and who, to that extent, acquires a special property in it. When the journey is ended, or about to end, it is to be redelivered to the conductor. It serves a threefold purpose: it is evidence in the passenger’s hands that he has paid his fare and has a right within the cars; it insures the payment of the passage money by all who take seats, and when it is redelivered to the company it becomes a voucher in its hands, against the office or agent who issued it, in the adjustment of its accounts.”

This is a singularly inaccurate description of a railroad ticket; which, whatever else it may be, is certainly the property of the holder, and not of the railroad company. But it is an almost exact description of a cancelled ticket which is left in the possession of the passenger to serve the purpose of a conductor’s check. That, certainly, is not a contract, but a receipt; and that was in fact the character of the instrument in question in this case. The opinion of Brown, J., is a striking example of judicial intuition; for the distinction noticed above is hardly yet recognized in the law.

Soon after this decision the same court had again to consider the same question in a case which at once became the leading one on the subject, — Quimby v. Vanderbilt.[2] Vanderbilt advertised to

  1. 15 N. Y. 455.
  2. 17 N. Y. 306.