Liability of rail carriers under receipts and bills of lading
(a) A rail carrier providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the Board under this part shall issue a receipt or bill of lading for property it receives for transportation under this part. That rail carrier and any other carrier that delivers the property and is providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the Board under this part are liable to the person entitled to recover under the receipt or bill of lading. The liability imposed under this subsection is for the actual loss or injury to the property caused by—
the receiving rail carrier;
the delivering rail carrier; or
another rail carrier over whose line or route the property is transported in the United States or from a place in the United States to a place in an adjacent foreign country when transported under a through bill of lading.
Failure to issue a receipt or bill of lading does not affect the liability of a rail carrier. A delivering rail carrier is deemed to be the rail carrier performing the line-haul transportation nearest the destination but does not include a rail carrier providing only a switching service at the destination.
The rail carrier issuing the receipt or bill of lading under subsection (a) of this section or delivering the property for which the receipt or bill of lading was issued is entitled to recover from the rail carrier over whose line or route the loss or injury occurred the amount required to be paid to the owners of the property, as evidenced by a receipt, judgment, or transcript, and the amount of its expenses reasonably incurred in defending a civil action brought by that person.
A rail carrier may not limit or be exempt from liability imposed under subsection (a) of this section except as provided in this subsection. A limitation of liability or of the amount of recovery or representation or agreement in a receipt, bill of lading, contract, or rule in violation of this section is void.
A rail carrier of passengers may limit its liability under its passenger rate for loss or injury of baggage carried on trains carrying passengers.
(3) A rail carrier providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the Board under this part may establish rates for transportation of property under which—
the liability of the rail carrier for such property is limited to a value established by written declaration of the shipper or by a written agreement between the shipper and the carrier; or
specified amounts are deducted, pursuant to a written agreement between the shipper and the carrier, from any claim against the carrier with respect to the transportation of such property.
A civil action under this section may be brought in a district court of the United States or in a State court.
(A) A civil action under this section may only be brought—
against the originating rail carrier, in the judicial district in which the point of origin is located;
against the delivering rail carrier, in the judicial district in which the principal place of business of the person bringing the action is located if the delivering carrier operates a railroad or a route through such judicial district, or in the judicial district in which the point of destination is located; and
against the carrier alleged to have caused the loss or damage, in the judicial district in which such loss or damage is alleged to have occurred.
In this section, “judicial district” means (i) in the case of a United States district court, a judicial district of the United States, and (ii) in the case of a State court, the applicable geographic area over which such court exercises jurisdiction.
(e) A rail carrier may not provide by rule, contract, or otherwise, a period of less than 9 months for filing a claim against it under this section and a period of less than 2 years for bringing a civil action against it under this section. The period for bringing a civil action is computed from the date the carrier gives a person written notice that the carrier has disallowed any part of the claim specified in the notice. For the purposes of this subsection—
an offer of compromise shall not constitute a disallowance of any part of the claim unless the carrier, in writing, informs the claimant that such part of the claim is disallowed and provides reasons for such disallowance; and
communications received from a carrier’s insurer shall not constitute a disallowance of any part of the claim unless the insurer, in writing, informs the claimant that such part of the claim is disallowed, provides reasons for such disallowance, and informs the claimant that the insurer is acting on behalf of the carrier.
Provisions similar to those in this section were contained in section 11707 of this title prior to the general amendment of this subtitle by Pub. L. 104–88, § 102(a).
A prior section 11706, Pub. L. 95–473, Oct. 17, 1978, 92 Stat. 1452; Pub. L. 97–258, § 3(n), Sept. 13, 1982, 96 Stat. 1066; Pub. L. 99–521, § 12(c), Oct. 22, 1986, 100 Stat. 2998; Pub. L. 103–180, § 3, Dec. 3, 1993, 107 Stat. 2049; Pub. L. 103–429, § 6(18), Oct. 31, 1994, 108 Stat. 4379, related to limitation on actions by and against common carriers, prior to the general amendment of this subtitle by Pub. L. 104–88, § 102(a). See sections 11705, 14705, and 15905 of this title.
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