263 US 537 Corona Coal Co v. United States
263 U.S. 537
44 S.Ct. 156
68 L.Ed. 431
CORONA COAL CO.
Argued Nov. 23-26, 1923.
Decided Jan. 7, 1924.
Mr. Forney Johnston, of Washington, D. C., for appellant.
Mr. Alfred A. Wheat, of New York City, for the United States.
Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellant sued in the Court of Claims for a balance alleged to be due for coal delivered to the United States. Some time prior to the delivery appellant had entered into contracts with certain railroad companies to supply them with coal for specified periods of time and at stated prices. Upon the passing of the railroads into the control of the government, by virtue of the President's proclamation of December 26, 1917, 40 Stat. 1733, the Railroad Administration claimed the right to enforce these contracts. The right was denied, whereupon the Fuel Administration requisitioned the coal 'without prejudice to your [appellant's] right to assert a claim against the Railroad Administration or these various railroad companies,' for any amount claimed to be legally payable. The Railroad Administration paid the prices fixed by the contracts, asserting that these were the measure of its liability. The general price for coal theretofore fixed by the Fuel Administration was more than the contract price, and this action was for the difference. The court below sustained a demurrer to the petition and dismissed it. After the rendition of judgment and before the appeal to this court, appellant brought actions in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against James C. Davis, as Agent for the President under the Transportation Act of 1920 (41 Stat. 456, c. 91 [Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, § 10071 1/4 et seq.]), the causes of action therein set forth being the same as that set forth in the present case. These alleged causes of action arose out of the possession, use, and operation by the President of the railroads in question and come within the provisions of section 206 (a) of the act, 41 Stat. 461, c. 91.
The government has submitted a motion to dismiss the appeal relying upon the provisions of section 154 of the Judicial Code, (Comp. St. § 1145), which reads:
'No person shall file or prosecute in the Court of Claims, or in the Supreme Court on appeal therefrom, any claim for or in respect to which he or any assignee of his has pending in any other court any suit or process against any person who, at the time when the cause of action alleged in such suit or process arose, was, in respect thereto, acting or professing to act, mediately or immediately, under the authority of the United States.'
At the time the alleged causes of action arose the President was acting under the authority of the United States, and the actions being against an agent appointed by and acting for him, fall within the terms of the statute just quoted. It is urged, however, that the actions were brought, ex necessitate rei, because they were about to become barred by expiration of the statutory period of limitation, and that, for this and other reasons, the case is not within the spirit of section 154 properly construed. But the words of the statute are plain, with nothing in the context to make their meaning doubtful; no room is left for construction, and we are not at liberty to add an exception in order to remove apparent hardship in particular cases. See Amy v. Watertown, 130 U. S. 320, 9 Sup. Ct. 537, 32 L. Ed. 953; St. Louis, Iron Mountain, etc., Railway Co. v. Taylor, 210 U. S. 281, 295, 28 Sup. Ct. 616, 52 L. Ed. 1061; United States v. First National Bank, 234 U. S. 245, 259, 260, 34 Sup. Ct. 846, 58 L. Ed. 1298.