Estes loses release value case

Estes Express Lines on Friday, June 16 lost its appeal of a judgment of more than $145,000 for damage to electrical equipment it transported on behalf of Emerson Electric Supply Co. Estes had declared that its liability for the equipment was limited to 10 cents per pound, or $1,020.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the district court’s conclusion that Estes could not limit its liability pursuant to its tariff because it failed to provide Emerson two or more different rates. Estes had argued that the ICC Termination Act of 1995 eliminated the requirement under the Carmack Amendment that a carrier provide a shipper an opportunity to choose between two or more different rates with corresponding levels of liability.

Although the ICC Termination Act did change the wording of the relevant section of the Carmack Amendment, Congress did not clearly indicate a change to previous law, the appeals court ruled. Nor does the legislative history reveal an intent to alter the requirement that carriers offer two or more rates if they want to provide for limited liability, it said.

The court also rejected Estes’ two alternate arguments that the requirement for two or more levels of liability were satisfied because of (1) the presence of a declared value box in the bill of lading and (2) the offer of different limitations of liability depending on how the shipment was packaged.

For a copy of the Third Circuit decision, click here.