B-176180, AUG 31, 1972

B-176180: Aug 31, 1972

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WHERE THE PROPERTY WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE EN ROUTE. REIMBURSEMENT OF THE EXPENSES IS NOT AUTHORIZED BECAUSE CLAIMANT'S LEGAL LIABILITY TO PAY THE CHARGES HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED. WHEREIN YOU ASK FOR RECONSIDERATION OF YOUR CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR SHIPMENT OF HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS WHICH WAS DENIED BY OUR CLAIMS SETTLEMENT LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 16. THE FACTS IN YOUR CASE ARE SET FORTH IN OUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 16. AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) YOU WERE GIVEN A CHANGE IN OFFICIAL DUTY STATION FROM RONKONKOMA. INCIDENT THERETO YOUR HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS WERE DESTROYED BY FIRE EN ROUTE. OUR DISALLOWANCE OF YOUR CLAIM IN THE AMOUNT OF $492.75 AS YOU INDICATE IS BASED ON THE FACT THAT YOUR LEGAL LIABILITY TO PAY THE CARRIER HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED.

B-176180, AUG 31, 1972

TRANSPORTATION CHARGES - REIMBURSEMENT - LIABILITY FOR PAYMENT DENIAL OF CLAIM OF LEWIS ADAMS, JR., FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF TRANSPORTATION CHARGES FOR THE SHIPMENT OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS PAID TO ALLIED VAN LINES, WHERE THE PROPERTY WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE EN ROUTE. UNDER NEW YORK LAW, THE SHIPPER APPARENTLY WOULD NOT BE LIABLE FOR THE FREIGHT CHARGES IN THIS SITUATION. THEREFORE, REIMBURSEMENT OF THE EXPENSES IS NOT AUTHORIZED BECAUSE CLAIMANT'S LEGAL LIABILITY TO PAY THE CHARGES HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED. SEE 45 COMP. GEN. 468 (1966).

TO MR. LEWIS ADAMS, JR.:

WE REFER FURTHER TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 3, 1972, WITH ENCLOSURES, WHEREIN YOU ASK FOR RECONSIDERATION OF YOUR CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR SHIPMENT OF HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS WHICH WAS DENIED BY OUR CLAIMS SETTLEMENT LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 16, 1971.

THE FACTS IN YOUR CASE ARE SET FORTH IN OUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 16, 1971, AND NEED TO BE REPEATED HERE ONLY TO THE EXTENT NECESSARY FOR PURPOSES OF REVIEW. AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) YOU WERE GIVEN A CHANGE IN OFFICIAL DUTY STATION FROM RONKONKOMA, NEW YORK, TO AURORA, ILLINOIS. INCIDENT THERETO YOUR HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS WERE DESTROYED BY FIRE EN ROUTE. THE COMMON CARRIER ALLIED VAN LINES - INSISTED THAT YOU PAY THE TRANSPORTATION CHARGES - $542.75 INCLUDING $50 INSURANCE - TO THE POINT OF LOSS AS A CONDITION OF ITS PAYMENT TO YOU OF $10,000, THE STATED VALUE ON THE BILL OF LADING, IN SETTLEMENT FOR THE LOSS.

OUR DISALLOWANCE OF YOUR CLAIM IN THE AMOUNT OF $492.75 AS YOU INDICATE IS BASED ON THE FACT THAT YOUR LEGAL LIABILITY TO PAY THE CARRIER HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED. SEE 45 COMP. GEN. 468 (1966).

ONE OF THE ENCLOSURES TO YOUR LETTER STATES THAT "UNDER THE STATUS OF ILLINOIS LAW THE CARRIER IS ENTITLED TO THAT DEDUCTION OR PAYMENT (TRANSPORTATION CHARGES TO POINT OF DESTRUCTION) NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT THE GOODS WERE NOT DELIVERED TO THEIR ULTIMATE DESTINATION."

IN YOUR CASE, HOWEVER, IT IS OUR UNDERSTANDING THAT ANY SUIT BY THE CARRIER FOR FREIGHT CHARGES WOULD HAVE TO BE FILED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AS IN THE CASE CITED ABOVE. AS POINTED OUT IN THAT CASE THE NEW YORK COURTS IN CONSIDERING SHIPMENTS UNDER COMMERCIAL BILLS OF LADING APPEAR TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN CASES IN WHICH THE GOODS REACH THE DESTINATION IN A DAMAGED CONDITION AND THOSE IN WHICH, BECAUSE OF LOSS OR DESTRUCTION OF THE GOODS EN ROUTE, DELIVERY CANNOT BE EFFECTED AT ALL. THE LATTER SITUATION THE SHIPPER IS NOT LIABLE FOR THE FREIGHT CHARGES. SEE CASES CITED IN 45 COMP. GEN. 468 AT 470.

ACCORDINGLY, WE CAN ONLY SUSTAIN THE ACTION DISALLOWING YOUR CLAIM FOR THE TRANSPORTATION CHARGES IN QUESTION. WE ASSUME THAT THE FAA IS CONSIDERING YOUR CLAIM FOR THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AMOUNT YOU COLLECTED FROM THE CARRIER FOR DESTRUCTION OF YOUR HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS AND THE AMOUNT WHICH YOU BELIEVE IS THE REASONABLE VALUE THEREOF. SEE 31 U.S.C. 240. NOTE THAT YOUR ATTORNEY HAS REFERRED TO SUCH A CLAIM IN HIS LETTER OF DECEMBER 2, 1971, TO THE FAA.