B-218992, Jan 29, 1988

B-218992: Jan 29, 1988

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

PROCUREMENT - Payment/Discharge - Shipment - Carrier Liability - Burden of Proof digest: The government's prima facie case of liability against a carrier for the loss of one article in a shipment of freight is not overcome when that carrier later returns a free astray overage of a different article for credit to the shipper that is not shown to be connected to the original shipment from which there was a loss. A shipping error must have occurred. The 40-pound carton of air filters was missing. Roadway claims that some metal plate was picked up at Columbus on December 3 instead of a carton of air filters. Even though the markings on the metal plate indicated that it was consigned to the Marine Corps.

B-218992, Jan 29, 1988

PROCUREMENT - Payment/Discharge - Shipment - Carrier Liability - Burden of Proof digest: The government's prima facie case of liability against a carrier for the loss of one article in a shipment of freight is not overcome when that carrier later returns a free astray overage of a different article for credit to the shipper that is not shown to be connected to the original shipment from which there was a loss.

Roadway Express, Inc.:

Roadway Express, Inc., has appealed our Claims Group's denial of its claim for a refund of $107.25 which the Army withheld from Roadway for the loss of a carton of air filters that Roadway contracted to transport from the Defense Construction Supply Center, Columbus, Ohio, to Norton Air Force Base, California. Roadway concedes that the Army has established a prima facie case of its liability for the carton of air filters that it did not deliver at the air base; however, it alleges that because it returned to the Columbus Supply Center for credit an article other than the air filters, a shipping error must have occurred, which would overcome the government's prima facie case so that the amount withheld should be returned. We agree with our Claims Group that Roadway has not avoided liability for the loss by its explanation of the circumstances involved.

On December 3, 1982, Roadway picked up a shipment from the Supply Center in Columbus, Ohio, which the bill of lading described as four pieces-- two pallets of cable, one pallet of wheels and a carton of air filters. Roadway delivered the shipment on December 13, 1982, to its destination at Norton Air Force Base, but the 40-pound carton of air filters was missing. Roadway claims that some metal plate was picked up at Columbus on December 3 instead of a carton of air filters. In support of the claim it furnishes a copy of its internal document which indicates that on December 6 it discovered a discrepancy and returned to Columbus 225 pounds of metal plate for credit as a free astray shipment on December 7. The internal document identified the shipment of cable, wheels and air filters as accounting for its free astray credit, even though the markings on the metal plate indicated that it was consigned to the Marine Corps, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Roadway has not demonstrated that the 40-pound carton of air filters shown on the bill of lading of the shipment it picked up December 3 should really have been shown on the bill of lading as 225 pounds of metal plate. The Supply Center at Columbus was requested to reconfirm that the shipment described as three pallets of cable and wheels and a carton of air filters was in fact shipped as billed and receipted for by Roadway; the Supply Center again confirmed that it was shipped. Norton Air Force Base in California was requested to recheck to see if a carton of air filters had been received at any later time; it again confirmed that it had not. All the Army documents indicate, as supported by an investigation, that a carton of air filters was picked up at Columbus but not delivered to California.

Roadway's internal document establishes only that some metal plate was returned to Columbus 4 days after the shipment with the missing air filters was picked up. Further investigation did not reveal any shipping documents that would account for the metal plate; nor has Roadway indicate how it could have confused the government's alleged tender of 225 pounds of metal plate at Columbus with the 40-pound carton of air filters indicated on the bill of lading it signed for. With this kind of documentary conflict, the government's documents and investigation are more persuasive. The circumstances here do not support a conclusion that the free astray metal plate returned by Roadway 4 days after tender of the shipment which included a carton of air filters could satisfy that shortage. See Pacific Intermountain Express Co., B-190147, Nov. 15, 1977.

Accordingly, since Roadway has not rebutted the Army's prima facie case of liability against it for not delivering the carton of air filters it signed for at Columbus, we sustain our Claims Group's denial of Roadway's
claim.