Weights and Measures in Freight Claims

Q: We have the book “Freight Claims in Plain English” (Huntington, N.Y.: Transportation & Logistics Council, 4th ed., 2009; by William J. Augello and George Carl Pezold, Brent Wm. Primus, ed.) but are unable to locate an answer to the following scenario:

Our company filed a claim against a carrier in which the released (declared) value was $9.07 per pound. The damaged cabinet weighs 1,300 pounds, but the cabinet could be repaired.

The part replacement cost was $739 and the labor to repair the cabinet was $300. The carrier sent a settlement check for only the $739 replacement part and did not include the repair labor.

We replied to the carrier stating the total repair cost was $1,039 and asked them to revise the settlement. The carrier is now asking for the weight of the door.

Please advise if the carrier is only liable for the weight of the door.

A: No wonder you can’t find an answer; you won’t find one in my own book, “Manager’s Guide to Freight Loss and Damage Claims,” (Fort Valley, Va.: Loft Press, 3rd ed., 2003) either, or, I suspect, in any other literature on the subject.

The reason is that this carrier is jinking like a snake to avoid putting up a lousy 300 bucks, and should be ashamed. When one writes a book on a particular topic, one tries to deal with real issues. One doesn’t contemplate skinflints dreaming up all sorts of bogus ones.

Some years ago, a nice lady named Jean Kerr wrote a book called “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” She came up with the title, she said, after leaving her kids at home one day with a long list of instructions but forgetting to tell them not to chow down on the flowers that were the centerpiece on her dinner table. Well, guess what: They did. This carrier is trying the same sort of thing.

Released rates, where the shipper declares a value of his goods in exchange for a reduced rate — ordinarily the requisite value declaration — is expressed “per pound, per article.” In your case, it’s $9.07, meaning the carrier’s liability is capped at $11,791 for the 1,300-pound cabinet — a fairly chunky sum, as I’m sure you agree.

But instead of holding the carrier up for that full amount, you conscientiously repaired the cabinet for a mere $1,039, less than a tenth of the ceiling. And now it’s trying to chintz you out of a portion of even this sum? Sheesh.

Your e-mail was a little sketchy on detail, so I phoned you to verify that the only part of the cabinet damaged was the door, and that the door was attached to the cabinet. You said yes on both counts.

Well, then, what was the “article” that was damaged? It was the cabinet, of course, of which the door is merely a part. Remember, the value declaration is “per pound, per article,” not “per pound, per fragment of an article,” so the weight of the cabinet is all that’s meaningful.

Let’s follow the carrier’s “reasoning” (if you care to call it that). Say that, instead of a cabinet, you’d shipped an expensive computer, at the same $9.07 declared value. In the course of transportation, say the cone circuit was scratched, rendering the whole thing a useless hunk of metal and plastic.

Would the carrier try to limit your recovery to the weight of the damaged circuit board, which is probably only a few ounces? How about to the weight of just the scratched circuit on that board, the weight of which is too minuscule to measure? Come on, now.

Just about every article of manufactured goods is composed of bits and pieces stuck together in one way or another. That doesn’t make it a mere amalgam of those bits and pieces, each one a separate and independent “article.” It’s put together as a unit, marketed as a unit, used as a unit, and it should be treated as one for claims purposes.

I’d point these things out to the carrier’s claims manager (who, to be fair, may not be personally responsible; this sounds more like the work of a lower-echelon minion trying to curry favor upstairs).

In your shoes, I’d also mention your future use of his or her employer will be greatly influenced by how fairly it deals with claims.

That should be enough to get this claim paid in full, including the labor cost of attaching the new door.

Consultant, author and educator Colin Barrett is president of Barrett Transportation Consultants. Send your questions to him at 5201 Whippoorwill Lane, Johns Island, S.C. 29455; phone, 843-559-1277; e-mail, BarrettTrn@aol.com. Contact him to order the most recent 351-page compiled edition of past Q&A columns, published in 2010.

For the full story: Log In, Register for Free or Subscribe