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 carrier to hold their goods in a storage facility. From there the company would ship the goods to the shipper on a specified date. As is so often the case in situations that end up in court, this is not how it went.

When the shipper contacted the carrier to schedule a delivery date, the carrier said it could not guarantee a delivery date because all their goods were marooned in Florida on broken-down trucks. Ten days later, the carrier notified the shipper minutes before their truck arrived to deliver the goods. But when the shipper went to unload the goods, only a quarter of their goods were there, and they were all unwrapped.

This was bad enough; but then (according to the opinion) the carrier’s employees demanded $2000 more than the contract price to unload and deliver the goods. This was problematic not only because of the price difference, but because of the fact that only a quarter of the goods were there. Despite a promise that the rest of the goods would arrive the next day, it was eight days later when the goods arrived, and not all the goods were there.

Resulting Litigation

Understandably, the shipper sued the carrier for the loss of goods, late delivery, and damage done. The suit was based on three causes of action:

  • the Carmack Amendment;
  • breach of contract; and,
  • international infliction of emotional distress.

While claims under the Carmack Amendment were clearly warranted, the breach of contract and emotional distress were less reliable. And the carrier moved the district court to dismiss these claims.

The court agreed, noting that the Carmack Amendment and its superior position in transportation litigation preempt those kinds of claims when interstate travel are concerned. Even though the shipper argued that the breach of contract claim was based on the carrier’s failure to store their goods properly, the claims belonged under the Carmack Amendment, and only the Carmack Amendment.

Carmack Amendment litigation comprises the large majority of court cases involving the transportation industry. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C., our team has years of experience successfully representing trucking companies in these types of disputes. Contact us today so we can help your company.