The Carmack Amendment and a Clean Bill of Lading

Kevin Anderson Bills of Lading, Cargo Liability, Transportation

For those involved in the trucking industry, it is only a matter of time before a shipper makes a claim for lost, stolen, or damaged cargo. When that happens the claim comes under the provisions of the Carmack Amendment, as long as the goods were shipped interstate. This federal policy is a national policy with established rules that should determine what the rights and obligations of the shipper and carrier are in any given situation.

The federal policy of liability for truckers is important for predictability and certainty in the industry, and it has several elements to it that must be met before a claim can go forward. In a recent case from Ohio, a federal court dealt with a trucking company and the claimed loss of tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment due to damage in the course of its transportation.

Proof of Condition in the Goods

 One of the main elements of a Carmack Amendment case lies in the condition of goods being shipped. In this case, Carrier Services Group, Inc. v. Schneider Logistics, Inc., the shipper argued to the court that the carrier damaged some of their computer equipment during its transit from Texas to Ohio. As proof, the shipper showed that the carrier gave them a clean bill of lading with no mention of damaged goods when they were picked up.

The carrier, arguing that a clean of bill of lading did not constitute proof, offered their own argument. They argued that because of a company policy requiring their drivers never touch freight, they could not be held liable for the damaged goods. Essentially, they were arguing that the damages must have happened while loading or unloading the goods. But the court did not accept this argument, and said that a clean bill of lading was proof of delivery in good condition.

Proving Damage to Cargo

 Despite this victory, there was a problem with the shipper’s claim. The cargo that was transported was expensive computer equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars. And while the equipment was visibly damaged, it had not been tested to see if it actually functioned after being delivered. The court had a problem with this approach.

The court, in this case, ruled that before a claim could be settled under the provisions of the Carmack Amendment, the claimant must show actual damages. That is because the federal law says plainly that recovery under the Carmack Amendment is limited to actual damages.

This element is key to any claim for loss of value. Before a company can force a carrier to pay for damaged cargo, it makes sense that the damage has to actually be proven first. And a first rate legal team practicing transportation law would ensure that for their client.

At Anderson and Yamada we have decades of experience representing companies involved with a claim for lost, damaged, or stolen goods. We are the firm that your company needs to successfully litigate any Carmack Amendment claim, or other transportation law issue. We look forward to working for you. Contact us today.