The Carmack Amendment and Default Judgment

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

The Carmack Amendment creates a uniform system of liability for damaged or lost goods shipped from one state to or through another. It is a nationwide policy that eliminates the need for trucking companies to be aware of and plan for different state liability laws. But the policy itself is harsh to carriers who do the actual work of shipping goods across the state. Under the Carmack Amendment, a carrier is one hundred percent liable for loss and damage of shipped goods. Once a shipper shows that she delivered the goods in good condition, the burden is then on the carrier to explain why the goods were damaged, and there are only a few exceptions to making the carrier responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen goods. Because of this policy, most Carmack Amendment cases are fairly straightforward, and come down to fighting over what the number should be regarding damages. …

Trucking Law Enters Supreme Court Conversation

Kevin Anderson Employment and Labor, Transportation

The world of trucking and transportation law is somewhat specialized and apart from other, more traditional law practices. Much of transportation law is based around federal and state safety regulations, while litigation involving trucking companies is often based on The Carmack Amendment, an obscure law to all but those who practice trucking law. So it is interesting when trucking becomes part of the ongoing, national conversation about law. That is exactly what happened in the least likely of places: a Supreme Court nomination hearing. The section of trucking law getting attention is whether a trucking company was justified in firing an employee who went against company instructions when he detached his tractor from a trailer with frozen brakes. The firing was justified by the company on the grounds that the trucker should have stayed with the trucker as instructed. Because he did not, they denied him typically associated with termination …

The Carmack Amendment, Intent, and International Shipments

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

A federal judge in Maryland recently decided a difficult Carmack Amendment case where it was not clear whether state law or the Carmack Amendment would apply. Of course the Carmack Amendment is federal law establishing a uniform policy of liability for lost or damaged goods shipped interstate. Because it is a federal policy and law, it preempts state laws that would otherwise apply to lost or damaged goods shipped interstate. With the law nothing is ever as clear as the rules which so neatly describe what should happen. Each case is full of facts that could apply to one situation in one way, and a different in another. That is why we have lawyers, litigations, courts, judges, and juries. Each party plays an important role to produce a fair and just result under the law. But even with all the players involved, sometimes the results are not clearly correct, but …

Bid Adieu to Restart Regulations

Kevin Anderson Regulations, Transportation

After two years of studies, fighting, and going back and forth, truckers now have some certainty with their restart rules. The Department of Transportation recently released their report on whether federal rules regulating trucker rest and duty hours were effective and should be upheld, or should not be implemented. The industry has waited for this study for sometime now, in order to be able to plan for the future and have some sense of stability. Now that the report issued its findings, the whole issue should be put behind the industry. And the report was not kind to the 2013 regulations, which started the whole fight in the first place. History of the Restart Rules In 2013 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued rules changing trucker hours of service rules. Those regulations required truckers to rest for two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods per week, and only allowed …

The Carmack Amendment: A Uniform Theory of Liability

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

It happens more often than shippers or carries wish it would, but the fact is that cargo is often lost, stolen, or damaged while being shipped interstate. Being an important issue of the national commerce, Congress decided long ago to regulate the loss and damaged of the cargo shipped interstate by passing the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 14706 et seq. The Carmack Amendment has been a solid source of reliability for both shippers and carriers dealing within the interstate trucking industry. The purpose of the Carmack Amendment is to establish a uniform policy of liability when cargo is lost, stolen, or damaged during interstate shipping. This uniform policy puts shippers and carriers on solid ground when they assess risk and liability before shipping goods. Carmack Amendment and Preemption Because the Carmack Amendment is a national, federal policy, it works to prevent claims being made under …

The Carmack Amendment and Punitive Damages

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

One of the most important functions of the Carmack Amendment is to establish a uniform system of liability for interstate carriers of cargo. This is important because it helps trucking companies to know before hand what risk they are taking on when shipping goods from one state to another. It also helps to properly establish insurance rates and premiums, and levels the playing field for both shippers and carriers. Notwithstanding this level playing field and certainty that comes with the Carmack Amendment, anyone ever involved in a lawsuit knows how soon a simple claim can become quite complicated. These complications often lead to large claims for vast sums of money, and more often than not this includes a claim for punitive damages. Punitive Damages in General The term itself of punitive damages has an ominous ring to it. And for any company or individual, the prospect of paying punitive damages …

Becoming an Imminent Hazard and Losing a CDL: What Not to Do

Kevin Anderson Citations / Violations, Regulations, Transportation

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a lot of power over the truckers and trucking companies in the United States. At any given point they can put a single driver, or entire fleet, out of business and take them off the road if they pose an imminent hazard to public safety. That is what recently happened to a driver in Tennessee, and it could happen to your company as well. When the FMCSA took the Tennessee driver off the road, he was relatively new to the profession. He only just received his CDL in 2016, and then ordered to relinquish it in January of 2017. What happened to him in losing his license is what happens in a lot of cases. He was caught driving while being suspected of recently drinking. Drinking a Driving: a Bad Idea This man’s first incident was logged by the police when they responded …

Novel Use of Carmack Amendment Dismisses Lawsuit

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

A novel approach to how the Carmack Amendment applies, and how broadly it can reach, was on display in a recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion. It was a novel use of the Carmack Amendment because of who was considered to be a carrier under the terms of the Carmack Amendment. And this broad reach worked to dismiss an otherwise legitimate claim for damages to a shipment of chemicals. This case revolves around the shipment of chemicals from Texas to Illinois, which in transit were ruined. The shipper originally contracted with a carrier to ship the chemicals, with the stipulation the tanker to be used went through a so-called “Kosher wash,” which includes removing all traces of previous chemicals and sediments that can compromise the introduction of new chemicals. In this case the actual carrier contracted with a third party company to do the Kosher wash of the tanker, …

Shippers, Carriers in Row Over Standard Bill of Lading

Kevin Anderson Bills of Lading, Transportation

Changes are afoot regarding the standard bill of lading used by carriers who participate in the National Motor Freight Classification. That bill of lading uses the standard tariff and incorporates the terms of a shipment between shipper and carrier. That tariff is created and implemented by the NMF Conference, represented heavily by the bigger carriers in the country. Because the bill of lading is closer to companies doing the shipping, rather than the shippers, it has carrier friendly terms. It is those terms that have brought organizations representing shippers out of the woodwork to fight the changes to the standard bill of lading, and they have laid their claims to the Surface Transportation Board who will accept or reject the new terms. Changes to the Standard Bill of Lading One big change to the new bill of lading is under what terms most less-than-truckload carriers will haul freight in the …

Beyond the Carmack Amendment: Alternate Theories of Liability

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Regulations, Transportation

When it comes to carrier liability for lost and damaged goods from an interstate shipment, the Carmack Amendment is the big law regulating most situations. It was created by the federal government to establish a uniform set of rules regulating how damages to goods shipped interstate should be handled. In part, this was to eliminate the applicability of state laws, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. When a carrier is sued over lost or damaged goods under a law or theory not involving the Carmack Amendment, it will in most cases be dismissed. But as one case recently decided from Illinois illustrates, that is not always the case. In fact there are many ways in which a trucking company can be held liable after a botched shipment. Starr Indemnity & Liability v. TRC, INC. The recent case out of Illinois involved the shipment of nearly $2 million worth of airplane …