The defendants are duly organized companies engaged in the business of common carriers, with their several connecting lines, with all the responsibilities and immunities attaching to the business of such carriers. Whilst we do not find it necessary to enter into the vast field of authorities and decisions defining the duties and relations of such carriers among themselves and to the public, a few general principles may be stated without citing authorities.
Common carriers are required to carry freight safely over their own lines, and make prompt delivery to the nearest connecting line when the consignee lives beyond the terminus of their own line and, when this is done, in the absence of any other agreement, their duties are performed, *705and they are not responsible for any loss or damage unless it occurs while the goods are in their possession and under the control of themselves or their agents and servants.
A common carrier has power to enter into contracts and may stipulate with his customers, imposing a limitation on his common law liability in regard to rates, distance, time and place of delivery and the nature of the articles to be carried, whether perishable or not, unusual hazards and the like,provided always that the limitations are just and reasonable in the eye of the law, and such contracts will be enforced.
One well-settled rule of law is that no such company can stipulate for exemption from the consequences of its own negligence or that of its agents or servants.. A just regard for the rights of individuals and public policy will not permit it. The business of transporting passengers and freight in our State is important, and for the mutual benefit of carrier and shipper, and must be conducted under reasonable regulations. The Court cannot assume that either party in such business intends to contract contrary to law and such reasonable regulations as the public interests require. An instance of an unreasonable stipulation is pointed out in Branch v. Railroad, 88 N. C., 573, where the clause in the bill of lading was that the goods will be shipped “at the convenience of the company,” which was held not to protect against an unreasonable delay. The bill of lading filed in the record contains both the receipt and the contract. It is not denied that all the parties had power to enter into the contract, and the terms of the contract are not in dispute. It is agreed that the bill contains the contract. The meaning and effect of the contract on the rights of the parties are the questions presented. The defendant Pennsylvania Railroad Company was brought into court by attachment pro*706cess, and subsequently entered a general appearance and filed an answer to the complaint, and then moved to dismiss the attachment on the ground that an attachment would not lie under our statute. We think his Honor rightly held that the motion to dismiss the attachment was immaterial, as the defendant was then otherwise in court. So, that matter is out of the way. It appears that the defendant Wilmington & AVeldon Railroad Company is one of several cannecting lines running south and doing business under the name of the Atlantic Coast Line, and that the defendant Pennsylvania "Railroad Company is a system with several lines running northeast. The machinery was received at Lowell, Massachusetts, and its destination was Rocky Mount, N. C., a point on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad Company line, and that these systems con nect somewhere between Lowell and Rocky Mount. The contract was between the plaintiff and the Atlantic Coast Dispatch All-Rail East. Freight Line, operating over the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Atlantic Coast Line and connections. This agreement is signed by T. M. Emerson, Traffic Manager Atlantic Coast Line, Wilmington, N. 0., and by Charles F. Nye, Northeastern Freight Agent, Boston, Mass., aud by other agents of other roads included in said systems. The machinery received was marked, consigned and destined to the plaintiff at Rocky Mount, N. C.
It is not denied that the defendants collected the whole freight at the point of delivery, aud that the same is divided among the several lines in these systems in proportion to the number of miles on each road over which the goods are carried.
Upon these facts the plaintiff argues that the defendants and their connecting roads have agreed among themselves to conduct business through their systems under the name *707and style of the “ Atlantic Coast Dispatch ; ” that they have so advertised to the public, and have so contracted with him, and charge higher rates as a consideration for the fast service they profess to give, and that each road which is a member of the “ Coast Dispatch ” line is liable for the negligence of the other roads. The defendants admit what appears in the bill and receipt, and that they do business under the name and style indicated, but insist that the “ Coast Dispatch ” is simply the name under which the defendants have agreed to operate their business; that they are thereby a simple association for the convenience of the public and not bound for each other’s negligence on the several roads, and that, in fact, it is agreed in the conditions attached to their contract that neither company shall be liable for loss or damage not occurring on its own road.
This action is for damage resulting from delay in the transportation, and not for loss or damage to the articles shipped. The plaintiff argues that there is no stipulation in the conditions against damage for delay, and that as to that matter there is no contract, and that he is remitted to his common law right against carriers for unreasonable delay. We are not disposed to put the case upon that technical ground, as we are satisfied the parties desire the opinion of the Court on the main question.
The machinery was on the road from Lowell to Rocky Mount 25 days, and allowing the time claimed during inauguration week there is still sixteen or seventeen days, which is conceded to be an .unusuallength of time for passage between the points. So, there was inexcusable delay somewhere along the line. In the view we take, however, the particular placéis an immaterial matter. Upon examination and reflection we are of opinion that the defendants and their connecting lines are jointly liable, each for *708the others, on the contract before us, and that they are also entitled to the same immunity and privileges as if the contract had been made by the individual company sought to be charged under said contract, that is to say, that they are engaged in business as partners under the name ofthe “ Atlantic Coast Dispatch.” They are still common carriers, none the less so because they have certain stipulations. Having jointly agreed to .conduct the “ All-Rail East Freight Line ” business under the name above stated between the terminal points of their connections North and South, and having so informed the public and so contracted with the plaintiff, their true character is fixed by the law according to the nature of their business, and such character cannot be thrown aside by any declarations in the contract in relation to the consequences or liabilities attaching thereto.
The “ Coast Dispatch” is one ofthé contractiug'parties, and if it represents anybody it must represent the defendants as two of its members. The fact that T. M. Emerson, Traffic Manager, is an agent of one of the defendants, and W. H. Joice, General Freight Agent, is an agent of the other, and so, also, of the whole list of agents at different localities, can make no difference. Why are they conducting business under the name of the “ Coast Dispatch ” instead of their own companies % The argument is that they are doing so for mutual convenience. In some respects that is plain ; but suppose the plaintiff should have to go to Pittsburg or other distant place to enforce his remedy. The convenience to him is not perceived. The receiving agent, Nye, at Lowell, appearing on the bill of lading as “Northeastern Freight Agent” only, we must assume he represents the “ Dispatch ” line, composed of defendants and others. Taking notice, as we are at liberty to do, that the numerous transportation lines in our country, con*709necting with each other, constituting continuous lines between remote localities, are important facts in the commercial life of the country, we can readily see that if the shipper should have to go to a distant State, and find as best he can the negligent party, and enforce his remedy against him there, then the expense and trouble would in many cases be ruinous. On the contrary, the carrier’s remedy in a case like the present would be easy and speedy. The whole matter is this : The defendants rnd their associates have engaged in a public business, in the manner described, for mutual benefit and convenience, and attempted to avoid the legal consequences by adopting some fancy name and by stipulating for limitations on the liabilities incurred in the exercise of their privileges in such business. We find no case on “all-fours” with the present, but the discussions in the following cases support the principle and conclusion at which we have arrived : City Bank of Ky. v. Adams Ex. Co., 93 U. S., 174, 183 ; Bradford v. S. C. Railroad, 62 Am. Dec., 411 ; Clyde v. Hubbard, 88 Pa. St. Rep., 358 ; 3 Wood on Railroads, p. 1922; Phillis v. R. Co., 78 N. C., 294, 298; 59 Am. Dec., 447, 450, n.
The second assignment of error was that the court should have construed the contract and not submitted it to the jury. If so, the verdict cures it, according to our view of the ease. The other requests and exceptions are dependent on the view of the court on the principal question. As to damages, we think his Honor instructed the jury according to the rule prescribed by this Court. Foard v. R. R., 8 Jones, 235 ; Roberts v. Cole, 82 N. C., 292.