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7th Circuit reinstates insurer’s case against shipper

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An insurer’s lawsuit against an Indianapolis-based shipping company involving a loss of more than $1 million has been reinstated by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Diane Wood wrote in a unanimous opinion that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana prematurely granted summary judgment for the defendant in Nipponkoa Insurance Company Ltd. v. Atlas Van Lines, 11-3085.

Nipponkoa insured Toshiba American Medical System, which in 2008 contracted with Comtrans, Ltd., and an Affiliate, Alternative Carrier Source, Inc., which hired Atlas to ship a device from California to a trade show in Chicago. A serious accident left TAMS with more than $1 million in losses.   

Atlas claims it had a contract with ACS and presented a bill of lading to Comtrans, each of which limited Atlas’ liability to 60 cents per pound. Atlas claims the Carmack Amendment 49 U.S.C. § 14706 limits its liability, but Nipponkoa contends neither the ACS contract or the bill of lading applied to TAMS and that if they did, they are not  Carmack-compliant.

“As is true in many contract cases that wind up in litigation, the fundamental question is who must ultimately bear the loss when multiple actors play a role in an arrangement,” Wood wrote. “While we appreciate the efforts made by both the parties and the district court to sort this out, we conclude that further proceedings are necessary. A final answer must await further development of the details of the shipping contract and the nature of the relationship among the four companies. Summary judgment was therefore inappropriate.”

The district court initially denied Atlas’ request for summary judgment, the 7th Circuit notes, but granted it after Atlas filed a motion to reconsider.

The order says further development of the relationship among players in the case is necessary, as is determining whether TAMS, which suffered the loss, is bound by Atlas’ contracts or a bill of lading signed by the intermediaries.






 

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