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The Movers Broke My Stuff! Verify and Confirm Your Claim Deadline

            State law and state regulations govern intrastate transportation of goods (even household goods) and directly impacts your rights in the event issues arise as a result of moving them from place to place

            We all know that the moving and storage business is unique.

            Not only are the owners of those businesses potentially liable to damage to the household goods (or possibly general freight if there is back haul), but there is also potential liability for damage to the house incidental to the move. 

            Most states recognize this unique industry serviced primarily by small, local business needs a certain level of predictability when it comes to liability for freight damage and damage to the house incident to the move. 

            After all, how are those business owners supposed to price risk (and thus set your freight charge rate) if you cannot rely on the $0.60/lb. released rate? 

            Can it be that easy for an unscrupulous shipper, in legal terms called a consignee, to evade the $0.60/lb. limitation by falsely claiming or radically inflating allegations of damage to the house incidental to the move?

            How can you protect yourself in these situations? 

            These are not easy questions but the answers can be addressed if you check your local state law and double check your Tariff. 

            Every state is different, but by way of example, New Jersey Law, N.J.S.A. 45:14D-12(b) and N.J.A.C. 13.44D-4.16(b), sets a strict deadline of 90 days from the date of delivery to file a Statement of Claim for loss or damage.  You should check your own state law to confirm as the state your reside in or do business in may have a different claim deadline.  You should use that deadline as per your state law. 

            In addition to state law, the Bill of Lading is the contract of carriage, or simply put, the agreement where you will find any potential warranties or representations to support a claim.  The Bill of Lading should confirm, among other things, the 90 day Claim deadline.       

            The mover’s written rules governing the transportation Tariff should also confirm the Claim deadline as set forth in your local state law.  Ask for a copy of the mover’s rules. 

             

            Do the mover’s rules define “damage” to include goods and to include damage to the house incident to the move?   Do the mover’s rules specify that unless the claim is timely made, the parties agree all other claims are forever barred? 

Again, your local law may differ but by example, the New Jersey Appellate Division has already considered this issue and enforced the law and these types of Tariff provisions.  In Kelsey v. J.D. Carton & Son, Inc., 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1336 (App. Div. 2014),  a Superior Court Judge granted the mover’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed a case alleging damage to goods in intrstate transportation.  The trial court found the Plaintiff’s statement of claim was not served on the moving company within the 90 days required by State law and the Administrative Codes.  As such, the case was time barred. 

Calling the Law Division Judge’s decision “thorough,” the Appellate Division reviewed the State law and the Administrative Codes and completely affirmed the trial court’s Order.  Thus, strict adherence to the filing deadline will ensure that a claim will be properly investigated.

In Kelsey, the trial court noted that the Plaintiff listed damage to certain items on the Bill of Lading on the day of the move, which they argued was proper notice within the 90 day time frame for filing a claim.  Nevertheless, the trial court held that listing damage on a Bill of Lading does not meet the requirements of a statement of claim of damage.  Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:14D-12(b), the claim must be in writing and delivered to the movers or storage facility.

So mere notations on a Bill of Lading are not a statement of claim. 

The claim was not made with the mover until well after the 90 day deadline.

The late-filed statement of claim asserted 13 items were damaged, that they could not be repaired and the replacement cost was $12,000.00.  This claim was time barred based on the law and on the clear-cut Tariff provisions of the mover. 

As a mover, you want to have a clear set of rules. 

As a person hiring the mover, you want to review and understand the mover’s rules. 

All things considered, clear and concise rules  and Bills of Lading may assist you in conserving future fees and costs from a lawsuit making these kinds of allegations and will allow the person hiring the mover to have all of the relevant information in one clear and concise space so all parties to the transaction can fully understand all of the issues.

By Thomas C. Martin, Esq.    To contact the author, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Partner – Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio, P.C.

With lawyers admitted in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and             Washington, D.C.

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