B-235558.4, Mar 19, 1991, 91-1 CPD ***

B-235558.4: Mar 19, 1991

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Where the surrounding circumstances are sufficient to establish that the item was shipped and lost. 5 days before the goods were picked up. Such a list includes items that in the owner's opinion have a value of $200 or more. Fogarty argued that because the vacuum cleaner was not included on the shipment inventory. It must not have been tendered to the carrier for delivery. Our Claims Group pointed out that we have held that a carrier can be charged with loss even if household goods are not listed on an inventory. Where other circumstances are sufficient to establish that the goods were shipped and lost. The Claims Group noted that the vacuum cleaner in fact was listed on the Hi-Value Inventory.

B-235558.4, Mar 19, 1991, 91-1 CPD ***

PROCUREMENT - Payment/Discharge - Shipment - Carrier liability - Burden of proof A carrier can be charged with the loss of an item not listed on the inventory, or on any other document, where the surrounding circumstances are sufficient to establish that the item was shipped and lost.

Fogarty Van Lines

Fogarty Van Lines appeals a settlement by our Claims Group finding the carrier liable for the loss of a vacuum cleaner from the shipment of a Navy member's household goods. We affirm the Claims Group's decision.

The shipper prepared a Hi-Value Inventory, signed by the shipper and a Navy Counselor, 5 days before the goods were picked up. Such a list includes items that in the owner's opinion have a value of $200 or more, each of which would not normally appear as a line item on the carrier's inventory. The Hi-Value Inventory listed the vacuum cleaner, but the inventory prepared at shipment, and signed by the shipper and the carrier's driver, does not, although it does include (in no particular order) the other Hi-Value Inventory items. Fogarty argued that because the vacuum cleaner was not included on the shipment inventory, it must not have been tendered to the carrier for delivery.

In response, our Claims Group pointed out that we have held that a carrier can be charged with loss even if household goods are not listed on an inventory, where other circumstances are sufficient to establish that the goods were shipped and lost. The Claims Group noted that the vacuum cleaner in fact was listed on the Hi-Value Inventory; the shipper stated that the vacuum was the last item loaded onto the truck; and the shipment inventory included two items described as containers with vacuum parts, which evidently were accessories for the vacuum cleaner. The Claims Group concluded that these circumstances provided an adequate basis for charging the carrier with liability.

Fogarty, in its appeal, complains that the Hi-Value Inventory was prepared 5 days before shipment, whereas the inventory prepared contemporaneous with the shipment does not list the vacuum cleaner. Fogarty also maintains that the Hi-Value Inventory itself shows evidence of tampering, and alleges that the shipper is fraudulently pursuing the claim. Fogarty argues that the inventory at shipment should be controlling as to lost items.

We do not agree with Fogarty. As the Claims Group indicated, a carrier can be charged with the loss of an item not listed on the inventory, or on any other document, where the surrounding circumstances are sufficient to establish shipment and loss. See Aalmode Transportation Corp., B-240350, Dec. 18, 1990. Here, we think the evidence cited by the Claims Group is adequate to satisfy that standard. In this respect, Fogarty's allegation of tampering is based on the fact that two Hi-Value Inventory lists actually were prepared, and the carrier's opinion that the vacuum cleaner seems to have been added to them by someone other than the shipper at a later date. Our review, however, discloses no impropriety in the lists or evidence of fraud on the shipper's part. The record, for example, shows that the first Hi-Value Inventory set out 19 items, including the vacuum cleaner as item 19 and a wedding dress as item 7, and the second list simply omitted the wedding dress and renumbered the remaining items 1 through 18 (the vacuum cleaner became item 18). Both lists were prepared the same day, and were signed by the shipper and the Navy Counselor; we see no impropriety in them.

In sum, we agree with the Claims Group that the record is adequate to support tender of the vacuum cleaner to Fogarty.