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STANDARD ELECTRICA, S.A. v. COLUMBUS LINES

August 17, 1966

STANDARD ELECTRICA, S.A., Libellant,
v.
COLUMBUS LINES, INC. and Hamburg Sudamerikanische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft, Respondents


McLean, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCLEAN

McLEAN, District Judge.

This is a suit in admiralty by a consignee of cargo against a carrier for damages for non-delivery of part of the goods. Libellant moves for summary judgment on stipulated facts. The legal issue is the meaning of the word "package" in 46 U.S.C. § 1304(5) which, as far as pertinent, provides:

 
"Neither the carrier nor the ship shall in any event be or become liable for any loss or damage to or in connection with the transportation of goods in an amount exceeding $500 per package lawful money of the United States, or in case of goods not shipped in packages, per customary freight unit, or the equivalent of that sum in other currency, unless the nature and value of such goods have been declared by the shipper before shipment and inserted in the bill of lading."

 The goods were "TV Tuners" shipped by ITT Export Corporation from New York to libellant in Rio de Janeiro. The tuners were put up in fibre-board cartons of uniform size 40 to the carton. There were 54 cartons in all. They were packed in the following manner:

 Six cartons were placed upon a wooden pallet stacked in three tiers of two cartons each. The bottom tier exactly covered the pallet. Over the top tier was fitted a wooden deck approximately 1/2 inch thick, of the same width and length as the pallet. Four metal straps were fitted over the top of the wooden deck, down the sides of the cartons and underneath the bottom pallet where their overlapping ends were tightly fastened together with metal seals. Two of these straps ran lengthwise and two crosswise. The bundle thus created was 39 inches long, 33 inches wide and 42 inches high. It weighed 380 pounds. There were nine such bundles, each made up of six cartons.

 When the goods were delivered by the shipper to respondent in New York, respondent issued a dock receipt for them. The receipt was on a printed form containing a caption reading: "Particulars Furnished by Shipper of Goods." Under this caption were four columns, headed respectively, "Marks and Numbers," "No. of Pkgs.," "Description of Packages and Goods," and "Gross Weight Pounds." Under these headings, handwritten entries were made as follows: under "Marks and Numbers," was written "SESA 1297 #1/9." Under "No. of Pkgs." appeared "9." Under "Description of Packages and Goods" was written "Palletts TV Tuners." Under "Gross Weight Pounds" appeared "3420."

 Below these entries, the dock receipt set forth the following printed legend:

 
"Received the goods or packages said to contain goods herein mentioned in apparent good order and condition, except as otherwise indicated herein, to be held and transported subject to all the terms contained in the carrier's regular long form of bill of lading as now in use, including all clauses presently being stamped or endorsed thereon, all of which shall be deemed to be incorporated herein. Copies of such bill of lading and clauses may be obtained from the carrier on request and may be inspected at any of its offices. Any declaration of value pursuant to applicable clause of the Carrier's regular form of bill of lading must be made by the shipper in writing upon delivery of the goods to the carrier and inserted on the face hereof as well as on the bill of lading and extra freight paid if required."

 Respondent issued a bill of lading for the merchandise. It contained a printed schedule of "Particulars" with headings identical to those of the dock receipt. Typed entries under the headings were similar to those written on the dock receipt. The "Marks and Numbers" were given as "1/9#," the "No. of Pkgs." as "9 Pallets," the "Description of Packages and Goods" as "T.V. Tuners" and the "Gross Weight Pounds" as "3420#."

 Clause 24 of the bill of lading provided:

 
"24. In the event of any loss, damage or delay to or in connection with goods exceeding in actual value $500 per package lawful money of the United States, or in case of goods not shipped in packages, per customary freight unit, the value of the goods shall be deemed to be $500 per package or per customary freight unit, as the case may be, and the carrier's liability, if any, shall be determined on the basis of a value of $500 per package or per customary freight unit, unless the nature and a higher value shall be declared by the shipper in writing before shipment and inserted in this bill of lading.
 
* * *
 
"It is agreed that the meaning of the word 'package' includes pieces and all articles of any description except goods shipped in bulk."

 The shipper did not declare a higher value for the goods pursuant to this clause. The stipulation is silent as to freight rates, hence we do not know whether additional freight would have been charged if a higher value had been declared. The invoice from the shipper to libellant described the goods as follows: "Numbers on the packages: 1/9 Quantity: ...


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