Claims Corner: Answers to Your Claims Questions

Dianna Whitby | Deer Park Consulting, LLC

Cargo claims aren’t generally pleasant, but they don’t have to be a “deal-breaker” between you and your shipper or you and your carrier. Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes! The manner in which one recovers from those mistakes may be the difference between keeping and losing a customer.

TIA is associating with Dianna Whitby, to create a Claims Corner in the new TIA 3PL Perspectives magazine. Dianna will select one or two of the most perplexing and interesting questions asked in the prior quarter and share her answers with other TIA members. If your question is selected, you will be asked permission to share your situation anonymously to educate other TIA members who may find themselves in similar circumstances.

For more information about the services offered, please visit Dianna’s website at  www.deerparkcargoclaims.com. Click on the “Contact” link to submit your questions.

Here is a question that Dianna has been asked several times:

Q: A large grocery D/C made arrangements with my company to do six pickups from several cold storages in Boston and one drop. The carrier turned in six bills of lading (one from each pick up) all signed for pieces at time of pick up. The receiver stamped the bills “Subject to Count and Inspection” at delivery. We received the bills within 24 hours of delivery. Since there was no notation of any shortage or damages on any of the bills, we paid the carrier. Four months later we received a claim from the D/C for 10 missing cases. The carrier denied the claim based on the notation at delivery. We have tried to tell the D/C that we acted as a broker, but they are telling us that we chose the carrier and therefore we are liable. Can we deny the claim?

A. Maybe. A claim must establish a three-prong burden of proof in order to build a prima facie case for liability. The prongs are (1) picked up in good order, (2) delivered in bad order and (3) the carrier did it. The carrier signed the bills of lading at pick up for the pieces, meaning he fulfilled his obligation to count and inspected the freight at pick up. The receiver, however, elected not to fulfill their matching obligation by signing “Subject to…” At this point, the D/C must prove that the shortage was a result of carrier error. After four months, any “proof” must be carefully evaluated by you and the carrier. A download of a security camera is generally considered to be definitive proof. If I were you, I would also deny the claim based on the notation.

Dianna Whitby is Principal at Deer Park Consulting, LLC. She may be reached at DeerParkCargoClaims@gmail.com.