B-164535 June 25, 1968

B-164535: Jun 25, 1968

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Constanti: We have your letter of June 5. We indicated that the Government offices engaged in procuring and paying for carrier services have the primary responsibility for the collection of loss or damage claims against carriers. The authority for the collection and adjustment of loss or damage claims would seem to include such actions as are necessary to terminate fully discharged claims by an appropriate notice or statement which reflects that t he carriers or insurer. Various forms of releases are used by parties seeking to obtain a good acquittance from any liabilities to other parties. While we are not in a position to render any binding decision on the propriety or efficacy of the commercial release statement you set forth in your letter.

B-164535 June 25, 1968

Mr. M. M. Constanti Director, Freight Department U.S. Navy Finance Center Washington, D.C. 20390

Dear Mr. Constanti:

We have your letter of June 5, 1968, in which you ask for confirmation of informal advice as to the propriety of executing releases to insurance companies and others in cases of settled claims against common carriers for loss of or damage to Government property while in transit.

In our recent telephone conversation we discussed the authority of Government departments and agencies to terminate or compromise claims of various kinds, including loss or damage claims against common carriers. We indicated that the Government offices engaged in procuring and paying for carrier services have the primary responsibility for the collection of loss or damage claims against carriers. The Federal Claims Collection Act of 1966, approved July 19, 1966, 80 Stat. 308, does not distract from that responsibility; rather, it adds to and broadens the authority of the responsible Government officials on claims of the United States that do not exceed $20,000.

The authority for the collection and adjustment of loss or damage claims would seem to include such actions as are necessary to terminate fully discharged claims by an appropriate notice or statement which reflects that t he carriers or insurer, as the case may be, has made satisfactory settlement. Various forms of releases are used by parties seeking to obtain a good acquittance from any liabilities to other parties.

While we are not in a position to render any binding decision on the propriety or efficacy of the commercial release statement you set forth in your letter, since it is not related to any specific set of facts and circumstances, the form seems generally adequate for the intended purpose. We may suggest that any official clothed with the authority to collect loss and damage claim against a common carrier would also seem to have the authority to signify to the carrier that a payment made to cover such claim fully compensates the Government for the damages suffered, if that be the case.

In our telephone conversation we suggested that the purpose of a release may be achieved in several ways, including a letter to the insurer which will show that a particular claim has been settled to the satisfaction of the claimant. As an example, we enclose a copy of our letter of November 7, 1966, B-158898, to an insurer for an airline.

Sincerely yours,

Edwin W. Cinokovski Assistant General Counsel

Enclosure