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MITSUI MARINE & FIRE INS. CO. v. CHINA AIRLINES

June 13, 2000

MITSUI MARINE & FIRE INSURANCE CO., PLAINTIFF,
V.
CHINA AIRLINES, LTD. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.

  OPINION

This is an action for damage to CD-ROM drives shipped from Manila, Philippines to Los Angeles, California. For the reasons outlined below, summary judgment provides an appropriate means to establish defendant's liability as well as the amount of damages based on the actual value of the goods. This case is governed by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air, October 12, 1929, 49 Stat. 3000, T.S. 876 (1934), reprinted in 49 U.S.C. § 40105 (commonly known as "the Warsaw Convention").

BACKGROUND

Mitsumi Electronics Corp. ("Mitsumi") contracted with Pan Globe Cargo Express, Inc. ("Pan Globe") to transport 5,400 CD-ROM drives from Manila, Philippines to Los Angeles by air. Pan Globe accepted delivery of the 5,400 CD-ROM drives packed in 540 cartons in good condition. Pan Globe contracted with defendant, China Airlines, Ltd. ("China Airlines"), to ship the goods to Los Angeles. On May 29, 1996 China Airlines accepted all 540 cartons in Manila in good condition.

China Airlines flew the cargo from Manila to Taipei, Taiwan on flight CI636, then from Taipei to San Francisco on flight CI308 (making a scheduled stop in Anchorage, Alaska), and finally from San Francisco to Los Angeles on flight CI307. When the cargo arrived in Los Angeles China Airlines noted that some of the cartons were wet.

Mitsumi had insured the goods with Mitsui Marine and Fire Insurance Co. ("Mitsui"). Mitsui retained the firm of McLaren Toplis North America, Inc. ("McLaren") to survey the cargo and assess the damage. Mitsui determined that 950 CD-ROM drives had sustained water damage depriving them of any commercial or salvage value. Mitsui paid Mitsumi $95,047.50 under the insurance policy. The plaintiff in this case is Mitsui, bringing this action as subrogated underwriter of Mitsumi. The contracted sale price of the shipped CD-ROM drives was $87 each. The invoice price for the 950 damaged CD-ROM drives amounted to $82,650.

DISCUSSION

Both parties have moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff's motion seeks to establish three findings: 1) defendant's liability for the water damage; 2) that the damages for such liability are not limited by the Warsaw Convention; 3) that the damages amount to $82,650. A finding for plaintiff on all three issues resolves the entire case. Defendant's motion involves partial summary judgment, seeking to limit any potential liability for damages to $20 per kilogram. Granting plaintiff's motion necessarily involves denying defendant's motion, thus, only plaintiff's motion is discussed below.

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This circuit recognizes the value of summary judgment to expeditiously dispose of meritless litigation. See Quinn v. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corp., 613 F.2d 438, 445 (2d Cir. 1980). The mechanism of summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing further litigation on an issue with an unalterably predetermined outcome. The standard for summary judgment ensures that issues are efficiently resolved without compromising the rights of the non-moving party.

Summary judgment may be granted only if the moving party can show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. The court must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all ambiguities in favor of the non-moving party.

Ametex Fabrics, Inc. v. Just In Materials, Inc., 140 F.3d 101, 107 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the mere existence of a factual dispute between parties does not preclude summary judgment when the dispute is not genuine or when the disputed facts are immaterial. A disputed fact is immaterial when the outcome of the case remains the same regardless of the disputed issue. Factual questions which prove immaterial fail to preclude summary judgment. See Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986) (noting that the existence of unresolved immaterial issues does not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment).

A party may not rely on "mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment". Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986).

Nor are judges any longer required to submit a question to a jury merely because some evidence has been introduced by the party having the burden of proof, unless the evidence be of such a character that it would warrant the jury in finding a verdict in favor of that party. Formerly it was held that if there was what is called a scintilla of evidence in support of a case the judge was bound to leave it to the jury, but recent decisions of high authority have established a more reasonable rule, that in every case, before the evidence is left to the jury, there is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is literally no ...

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