Administrative Law – Primary Administrative Jurisdiction – Construction and Reasonableness of Tariff Classification

Respondent railroads sued in the Court of Claims to recover from petitioner United States, as shipper, the difference between actual tariff payments and those allegedly due on shipments of aerial bomb cases containing napalm gel. Petitioner alternatively asserted that (1) since the bombs as shipped were non-explosive, respondent’s advocated classification as “incendiary bombs” was inapplicable, or (2) if such classification were held to apply, then the rate was unreasonable, and preliminary resort to the Interstate Commerce Commission must be had for a determination of reasonableness. On certiorari from summary judgment for respondent, held, reversed. The commission has exclusive primary jurisdiction, not only upon the issue of reasonableness of the tariff, but also when, as in the instant case, “the questions of construction and reasonableness are so intertwined that the same factors are determinative on both issues” upon the matter of tariff construction. United States v. Western Pacific R. Co., 352 U.S. 59 (1956).