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INSURANCE CO. OF NORTH AMERICA v. G.I. TRUCKING CO

December 31, 1991

INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
G.I. TRUCKING CO., et al., Defendants.


Henderson


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THELTON E. HENDERSON

This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment, filed with the court on October 15, 1991. The motion came on for oral argument on Monday, December 16, 1991 at 10:00 a.m. After careful consideration of the moving papers, declarations, and oral arguments, the court is satisfied that summary judgment should be GRANTED in favor of the defendants.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 Eye Technology contracted with G.I. Trucking to carry a shipment of intraocular lenses from Los Angeles to Calexico, California en route to Mexico. The lenses were insured by INA. On or about April 18, 1988, the lenses were damaged.

 On December 2, 1988, approximately eight months after receipt of the damaged lenses, INA sent the following communication to G.I. Trucking:

 . . . This letter is our preliminary notice of loss/damage to the shipment of lenses in the amount of $ 100,000 (estimate). Please note that we have not yet paid this claim to our insured; as soon as we will make payment to them we will send the final claim to you . . .

 Declaration of James Attridge, para. 5, Exh. D-2.

 However, no further notice firmly establishing the specific amount of the claim was sent to G.I. Trucking until March 28, 1989, over eleven months after the damaged cargo was delivered.

 The plaintiff and defendants represented at oral argument that a reason for the delay in identifying the exact amount of the damage was that after the damage occurred the plaintiff believed that it might be possible to salvage the shipment, at least in part. The parties agreed that the plaintiff made the defendant aware of the intent to attempt to salvage the shipment. In addition, G.I. Trucking had no knowledge of the actual value of the shipment. G.I. Trucking's tariff required that the value of items of extraordinary worth be stated on the bill of lading. Here, the shipper did not do so.

 NATURE OF THE MOTION

 The defendants (G.I. Trucking) move for summary judgment, claiming that INA failed to make a legally sufficient claim within the nine month period established under the uniform straight bill of lading, the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. ยง 11707(a), and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 49 C.F.R. ยง 1035.2, (ICC regulations), and is therefore barred from bringing this action. G.I. Trucking contends that under the terms of the bill of lading at issue and the ICC's regulations, INA was required to make a legally sufficient claim within nine months of receipt of the damaged goods. G.I. Trucking contends that no claim meeting the specificity requirements of the Carmack Amendment, the bill of lading, and the ICC regulations was made until over eleven months after receipt of the damaged goods.

 INA contends that its letter of December 2, 1988, received approximately eight months after the April 18, 1988 receipt of the damaged goods, constituted a legally sufficient notice of claim. G.I. Trucking contends that the December 2, 1988 letter did not meet the relevant legal requirements under the ICC regulations, the bill of lading, and the Carmack Amendment because it did not state the specific amount of the claim, but gave only an estimate.

 The sole issue is whether the December 2, 1988 letter constituted a claim within the meaning of the bill of lading, the ICC regulations and the Carmack Amendment.

 LEGAL STANDARD

 Summary judgement is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law. Jung v. FMC Corp., 755 F.2d 708, 710 (9th Cir. 1985); Fed. R. Civ P. 56(c). A dispute as to a material fact is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 , 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1976). "If the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 251 (citations omitted). In ruling on a summary judgement motion, a court must view all facts and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Poller v. CBS, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 7 L. Ed. 2d 458 , 82 S. Ct. 486 (1962).

 A party seeking summary judgement bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 , 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, she must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Whereas, the moving party can prevail on a motion for summary judgement on an issue for which her opponent will ...


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