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Mediterranean Shipping Company (Usa) Inc. v. American Cargo Shipping Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 10, 2014

MEDITERRANEAN SHIPPING COMPANY (USA) INC., Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN CARGO SHIPPING LINES, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Mediterranean Shipping Company (USA), Inc. ("MSC" or "Plaintiff") brings suit against Defendant American Cargo Shipping Lines, Inc. ("American Cargo" or "Defendant") for breach of contract. Doc. 7. MSC alleges that American Cargo commissioned MSC to transport several shipments of cargo. Id. MSC transported the shipments to their destination ports, but they were not picked up on time. Id. MSC seeks reimbursement of all the charges it allegedly incurred due to American Cargo's failure to ensure that the cargo was timely picked up. Id. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to partially dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 8. For the reasons discussed below, that motion is GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, which the Court accepts as true for purposes of the instant motion. Koch v. Christie's Int'l PLC, 699 F.3d 141, 145 (2d Cir. 2012).

A. MSC and Its Standard Form Bill of Lading

Plaintiff MSC is a "common carrier of containerized cargo by ocean vessel in the foreign commerce of the United States." Am. Compl. ¶ 5. MSC has a standard form bill of lading contract that it utilizes with respect to shipments it accepts for carriage. Id. ¶ 7. The terms and conditions of the bill of lading are typically printed on the back of any original bills of lading that MSC issues. Id. The terms and conditions are also available on MSC's website or from MSC or any of its agents upon request. Id. In addition, the terms and conditions are part of the tariff that MSC is required to maintain under the Shipping Act.[1] Id.

The face of the standard form bill of lading provides:

IN ACCEPTING THIS BILL OF LADING THE MERCHANT EXPRESSLY ACCEPTS AND AGREES TO ALL THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, WHETHER PRINTED, STAMPED OR OTHERWISE INCORPORATED ON THIS SIDE AND ON THE REVERSE SIDE OF THIS BILL OF LADING AND THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE CARRIER'S APPLICABLE TARIFF AS IF THEY WERE ALL SIGNED BY THE MERCHANT.

Id. Ex. A, at 1. This language also appears on the face of each bill of lading at issue in this case. Id. Ex. C, F, I, L.

The terms and conditions of the standard form bill of lading include the following provisions:

The terms and conditions of the Carrier's applicable Tariff are incorporated into this Bill of lading. Particular attention is drawn to terms and conditions concerning additional charges including demurrage, per diem, storage expenses and legal fees, etc. A copy of the applicable Tariff can be obtained from the Carrier or its agent upon request and the Merchant is deemed to know and accept such Tariff. In the case of any conflict or inconsistency between this Bill of Lading and the applicable Tariff, it is agreed that this Bill of Lading shall prevail.

Id. Ex. A, at 3.

This Bill of Lading is the final contract between the parties which supersedes any prior agreement or understanding, whether in writing or verbal, save where this Bill of Lading has been issued pursuant to another contract between the Merchant and the Carrier, when such other contract and this Bill of Lading shall be construed together.

Id. Ex. A, at 13. The definition of Merchant "includes the Shipper, Consignee, holder of this Bill of Lading, the receiver of the Goods and any Person owning, entitled to or claiming the possession of the Goods or of this Bill of Lading ...


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