49 U.S. Code § 14706 - Liability of carriers under receipts and bills of lading
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(a) General Liability.—
(1) Motor carriers and freight forwarders.— A carrier providing transportation or service subject to jurisdiction under subchapter I or III of chapter 135 shall issue a receipt or bill of lading for property it receives for transportation under this part. That carrier and any other carrier that delivers the property and is providing transportation or service subject to jurisdiction under subchapter I or III of chapter 135 or chapter 105 are liable to the person entitled to recover under the receipt or bill of lading. The liability imposed under this paragraph is for the actual loss or injury to the property caused by
(C) another 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 and, except in the case of a freight forwarder, applies to property reconsigned or diverted under a tariff under section 13702. Failure to issue a receipt or bill of lading does not affect the liability of a carrier. A delivering carrier is deemed to be the carrier performing the line-haul transportation nearest the destination but does not include a carrier providing only a switching service at the destination.
(2) Freight forwarder.— A freight forwarder is both the receiving and delivering carrier. When a freight forwarder provides service and uses a motor carrier providing transportation subject to jurisdiction under subchapter I of chapter 135 to receive property from a consignor, the motor carrier may execute the bill of lading or shipping receipt for the freight forwarder with its consent. With the consent of the freight forwarder, a motor carrier may deliver property for a freight forwarder on the freight forwarder’s bill of lading, freight bill, or shipping receipt to the consignee named in it, and receipt for the property may be made on the freight forwarder’s delivery receipt.
(b) Apportionment.— The 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 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.
(c) Special Rules.—
(1) Motor carriers.—
(A) Shipper waiver.— Subject to the provisions of subparagraph (B), a carrier providing transportation or service subject to jurisdiction under subchapter I or III of chapter 135 may, subject to the provisions of this chapter (including with respect to a motor carrier, the requirements of section 13710 (a)), establish rates for the transportation of property (other than household goods described in section 13102 (10)(A)) under which the liability of the carrier for such property is limited to a value established by written or electronic declaration of the shipper or by written agreement between the carrier and shipper if that value would be reasonable under the circumstances surrounding the transportation.
(B) Carrier notification.— If the motor carrier is not required to file its tariff with the Board, it shall provide under section 13710 (a)(1) to the shipper, on request of the shipper, a written or electronic copy of the rate, classification, rules, and practices upon which any rate applicable to a shipment, or agreed to between the shipper and the carrier, is based. The copy provided by the carrier shall clearly state the dates of applicability of the rate, classification, rules, or practices.
(C) Prohibition against collective establishment.— No discussion, consideration, or approval as to rules to limit liability under this subsection may be undertaken by carriers acting under an agreement approved pursuant to section 13703.
(2) Water carriers.— If loss or injury to property occurs while it is in the custody of a water carrier, the liability of that carrier is determined by its bill of lading and the law applicable to water transportation. The liability of the initial or delivering carrier is the same as the liability of the water carrier.
(d) Civil Actions.—
(1) Against delivering carrier.— A civil action under this section may be brought against a delivering carrier in a district court of the United States or in a State court. Trial, if the action is brought in a district court of the United States is in a judicial district, and if in a State court, is in a State through which the defendant carrier operates.
(2) Against carrier responsible for loss.— A civil action under this section may be brought 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.
(3) Jurisdiction of courts.— A civil action under this section may be brought in a United States district court or in a State court.
(e) Minimum Period for Filing Claims.—
(1) In general.— A 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.
(2) Special rules.— For the purposes of this subsection—
(A) 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
(B) 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 reason for such disallowance, and informs the claimant that the insurer is acting on behalf of the carrier.
(f) Limiting Liability of Household Goods Carriers to Declared Value.—
(1) In general.— A carrier or group of carriers subject to jurisdiction under subchapter I or III of chapter 135 may petition the Board to modify, eliminate, or establish rates for the transportation of household goods under which the liability of the carrier for that property is limited to a value established by written declaration of the shipper or by a written agreement.
(2) Full value protection obligation.— Unless the carrier receives a waiver in writing under paragraph (3), a carrier’s maximum liability for household goods that are lost, damaged, destroyed, or otherwise not delivered to the final destination is an amount equal to the replacement value of such goods, subject to a maximum amount equal to the declared value of the shipment and to rules issued by the Surface Transportation Board and applicable tariffs.
(3) Application of rates.— The released rates established by the Board under paragraph (1) (commonly known as “released rates”) shall not apply to the transportation of household goods by a carrier unless the liability of the carrier for the full value of such household goods under paragraph (2) is waived, in writing, by the shipper.
(g) Modifications and Reforms.—
(1) Study.— The Secretary shall conduct a study to determine whether any modifications or reforms should be made to the loss and damage provisions of this section, including those related to limitation of liability by carriers.
(2) Factors to consider.— In conducting the study, the Secretary, at a minimum, shall consider—
(3) Report.— Not later than 12 months after January 1, 1996, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the results of the study, together with any recommendations of the Secretary (including legislative recommendations) for implementing modifications or reforms identified by the Secretary as being appropriate.
Source(Added Pub. L. 104–88, title I, § 103,Dec. 29, 1995, 109 Stat. 907; amended Pub. L. 104–287, § 5(38),Oct. 11, 1996, 110 Stat. 3392; Pub. L. 109–59, title IV, § 4207,Aug. 10, 2005, 119 Stat. 1757.)
Provisions similar to those in this section were contained in sections 10730 and 11707 of this title prior to the general amendment of this subtitle by Pub. L. 104–88, § 102(a).
2005—Subsec. (f). Pub. L. 109–59designated existing provisions as par. (1), inserted heading, and added pars. (2) and (3).
1996—Subsec. (g)(3). Pub. L. 104–287substituted “January 1, 1996” for “the effective date of this section”.
Review of Liability of Carriers
“(a) Review.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act [Aug. 10, 2005], the Surface Transportation Board shall complete a review of the current Federal regulations regarding the level of liability protection provided by motor carriers that provide transportation of household goods and revise such regulations, if necessary, to provide enhanced protection in the case of loss or damage.
“(b) Determinations.—The review required by subsection (a) shall include a determination of—
“(1) whether the current regulations provide adequate protection;
“(2) the benefits of purchase by a shipper of insurance to supplement the carrier’s limitations on liability; and
“(3) whether there are abuses of the current regulations that leave the shipper unprotected in the event of loss and damage to a shipment of household goods.”