An unreported U. S. District Court of New Jersey decision (2012) has recently come to my attention, and deserves comment on how notice of cargo claims may/may not be provided to carriers. The case involved a shipper providing their only notice of a cargo claim by email. In short, the Court concluded that email notification, alone, is not sufficient to establish filing of a claim in accord with 49 C.F.R. § 370.3(b).
Without going into all the definitions and distinctions provided by the Court, the takeaways are these:
- Unless the parties have a written agreement allowing for receipt of claims by email (only)…the practice is not sufficient.
- Of course, a fully completed “Claim Form” that complies with all requirements of notice may be transmitted by email. However, the belt and suspenders method would be to also send a hard copy by snail mail, with proof of receipt.
- You are reminded of the requirements of 49 CFR 370 et seq., with regard to the information that must be included in a written notice of claim.:
(1) Containing facts sufficient to identify the baggage or shipment (or shipments) of property,
(2) Asserting liability for alleged loss, damage, injury, or delay, and
(3) Making claim for the payment of a specified or determinable amount of money, shall be considered as sufficient compliance with the provisions for filing claims embraced in the bill of lading or other contract of carriage; Provided, however, That where claims are electronically handled, procedures are established to ensure reasonable carrier access to supporting documents.