A Primer on Damages and the Carmack Amendment

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

For those involved in the trucking industry, there is always a chance that the goods being transported could be lost, damaged, or stolen while in transit from point A to point B. And when those goods are being transported from one state to another, some may ask which state law should apply to resolve the issue. But thanks to a national policy, there is no need to ask that question.

That national policy that provides for what happens when trucking goods are lost, damaged, or stolen is known as the Carmack Amendment. It is a federal law, codified at 49 U.S. Code § 14706, and since its enactment it has provided the trucking and transportation industry with stability and predictability when it comes to mitigating the loss that inevitably happens over the road. But even this national policy can have some variations from one area of the country to another.

9th Circuit View on Damages

The variations that can appear within the framework of the Carmack Amendment happen from federal circuit to federal circuit. All Carmack Amendment claims come under federal jurisdiction, and there are 13 different jurisdictions within the federal judiciary. Each has its own particular take on how to interpret federal laws, like the Carmack Amendment, for example.

One of the issues that can vary from circuit to circuit is the assessment of damages under the Carmack Amendment. Damages is a legal term that means the amount of loss a party suffered monetarily. On its face the issue of what constitutes damages for goods lost, stolen, or damaged should be fairly simple. But the reality can be much more complex.

The complexity of damages is largely due to the expectations and views each party has when involved in paying for lost goods. When a shipper sends his goods across the country it is true that the goods themselves have an objective value, say $10,000. But that may just be the replacement value of the goods. This doesn’t account for the costs associated with getting them in the first place, or the expected profit once they reached their destination, and so on and so forth.

Under the law of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (comprising California, Washington, Oregon, and other west coast states), there is a basic rule for damages under the Carmack Amendment. That rule states that the measure of damages in a Carmack Amendment case should be the difference between market value of the property in the condition of the goods as they should have arrived to their destination and their market value in which they did (or did not) arrive.

But even this rule is not absolute, and each case should be looked at individually as its unique circumstances will provide for greater or fewer damages than this. For example, there could be special damages which should be considered such as labor costs, freight charges, and more. Each case is fact driven, and needs the professional care of a qualified transportation law firm.

Your Carmack Amendment Law Firm

At Anderson and Yamada we have decades of legal experience in the transportation industry. Let us put that experience to use for you. Contact us today to help with all of your transportation law needs in Oregon, Washington, and California.