Household Goods, Carmack Amendment, and Arbitration Clauses

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

Arbitration clauses are included in a wide array of contracts spanning most if not all industries. They have an interesting appeal for large companies and parties desiring to control a contractual relationship because they force complaints to be brought in specific forums under specific rules. In addition, many times the cost of entering an arbitration can be prohibitive. Under United States federal law, there is a presumption favoring the enforcement of arbitration clauses. But this general rule has exceptions; notably, there is an exception that touches transportation law. This exception is specific to companies dealing with the transportation of household goods across state lines. Dealing in Household Goods The Carmack Amendment is a uniform policy of liability for the loss or damage that can happen to goods shipped interstate. It typically treats one kind of freight the same as another, but household goods get special attention for a number of …

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 …

A Shipper’s (and Carrier’s) Worst Nightmare

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Contracts, Transportation

A healthy amount of trust is needed for a shipper to engage a carrier to ship goods from one state to another. Nowhere in the industry is this more true than in the shipping of personal goods in an interstate move. In those cases, the shipper is trusting the carrier with personal valuables, keepsakes, heirlooms, and other important goods. Given this fact, it is no wonder that when something goes wrong with a move, expensive litigation results. This is what happened recently in a lawsuit involving the Carmack Amendment and other claims because of a botched move. The facts described in the opinion demonstrate what would be a shipper’s worst nightmare. What Happened in This Case This all began when a family contracted with a large, well-known moving company to move their goods from Florida to Connecticut in late 2013. As part of their contract, the shipper arranged for the …

Carmack Amendment and Preemption of State Laws

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

A federal court in New Jersey was recently tasked with deciding whether a Carmack Amendment claim should be dismissed as preempted, even when the claims made were not specific. This case shows why expert counsel is so important when it comes to litigation involving transportation law issues. Again and again we see examples of attorneys and plaintiffs proceeding pro se and pleading the wrong claims in court for lost or damaged goods. The reason: few attorneys and non-attorneys really understand the framework for interstate claims, whether for damaged or lost goods. In this case, the person decided not to hire an attorney, and now faces the prospect of continuing without one in her case. What Happened in This Case In Soares v. Bekins Van Lines, Co., et al., No. 15-4242 (D. Ct. New Jersey 2016), the shipper hired a well known company to move her household goods across state lines …

Economic Regulation of HHG Carriers In Portland Commercial Zone

John Anderson Q & A, Regulations, Transportation

Question: Does the federal commercial zone exemption for Portland include Vancouver? And does the exemption encompass household goods? Answer:  The answer to both questions is yes, which should resolve a dispute between state regulators and HHG carriers operating within the federal Portland commercial zone without  HHG authority.  The answer also extends to other carriers operating within the zone. 49 USC 13506(b)(1) exempts from economic regulation “transportation provided entirely in a municipality, in contiguous municipalities, or in a zone that is adjacent to, and commercially a part of, the municipality or municipalities, except when the transportation is under common control, management, or arrangement for a continuous carriage or shipment to or from a place outside the municipality, municipalities, or zone.”  Several comments are necessary: The exemption is not absolute, but can be eliminated, contracted or expanded as deemed necessary by the Surface Transportation Board (“STB”); The exemption extends to economic regulation only, not …