Shipper’s cargo damage complaint held adequate under Montreal Convention

UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc. v. American Airlines, Inc. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 2009).  For a cargo damage claim, Article 31(2) of the Montreal Convention requires that “the person entitled to delivery must complain to the carrier forthwith after the discovery of the damage,” and, at the latest, within 14 days from the date of receipt of the cargo.  Article 31(3) requires that such complaint be “in writing.”  Article 31 does not contain any further requirements regarding the contents or form of the complaint.

In this case, American had agreed to transport 80 drums of fish oil for UPS from Japan to Illinois.  Upon arrival, the cargo spoiled because the drums were not refrigerated.  Within the 14-day notice period, a UPS employee sent a letter to American stating as follows:

This is to inform you that our customer is refusing this shipment due to the fact that is [sic] was left in a ULD and not kept cool.  From what I understand the freight was left outside in a container during days reaching 80 degree’s [sic] and the product spoiled. The product was valued well over $80,000 USD.  Please advise what the airline plans to do with this product.  All your help is deeply appreciated.

American moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the letter failed to give adequate notice of UPS’s complaint because it did not contain an express statement of UPS’s intent to hold American liable for the cargo damage.  The court rejected American’s argument, holding that the text of Article 31 only required that the complaint give notice that the cargo had been damaged and that UPS’s letter had adequately done just that.

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