B-239199.2, Jul 9, 1991, Office of General Counsel

B-239199.2: Jul 9, 1991

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Although settlements often are useful in providing guidance for the future. They do not constitute decisions of the Comptroller General and thus are not necessarily to be followed as precedent. " under which the government agrees to share equal liability if both the government and the carrier had transportation responsibility and it is difficult to determine where the loss or damage occurred. The extent of the carrier's liability was in question because the firm appeared not to have responded to the Air Force's offer to share liability within 120 days of receiving it. You ask whether our intent was to endorse the Claims Group's specific holding and what. Is the applicability of that holding in terms of past and future claims.

B-239199.2, Jul 9, 1991, Office of General Counsel

PROCUREMENT - Payment/Discharge - Shipment - Administrative appeals - Claim settlement - Precedents DIGEST: The settlement of an individual claim by the Claims Group disposes of that claim only. Although settlements often are useful in providing guidance for the future, they do not constitute decisions of the Comptroller General and thus are not necessarily to be followed as precedent.

Colonel Edwin F. Hornbrook, USAF

Chief, Claims and Tort Litigation Staff

Office of the Judge Advocate General:

This responds to your May 15, 1991, request that we clarify our decision in American VanPac Carriers, Inc., B-239199, May 3, 1991. The decision concerned, in pertinent part, whether the carrier should be held liable for only half of the loss and damage to an Air Force member's household goods. The limited liability would be based on a government-industry compromise known as the "50-50 Rule," under which the government agrees to share equal liability if both the government and the carrier had transportation responsibility and it is difficult to determine where the loss or damage occurred.

The extent of the carrier's liability was in question because the firm appeared not to have responded to the Air Force's offer to share liability within 120 days of receiving it. Our Claims Group held that the 50-50 rule applied regardless of when American VanPac responded to the Air Force's demand.

In our decision, we determined that the carrier had substantially complied with the 120-day requirement. You ask whether our intent was to endorse the Claims Group's specific holding and what, in any event, is the applicability of that holding in terms of past and future claims.

Although we affirmed the Claims Group's decision, we expressly made no judgment as to its substance, i.e., we neither endorsed nor rejected the view that the Air Force could not rely on the 120-day requirement to hold carriers liable in full for loss or damage where transportation responsibility was shared. Instead, we found that there was no need to decide that issue, since even if a 120-day rule applied the facts of the case established that the carrier substantially met it. Of course, should the issue arise again and be brought to our Office, we will proceed to resolve it if resolution is necessary in order to reach a proper settlement.

As to the effect of the Claims Group's decision, the settlement of an individual claim by the Group disposes of that claim only. Although settlements often are useful in providing guidance for the future, they do not constitute decisions of the Comptroller General and thus are not necessarily to be followed as precedent. See, e.g., 52 Comp.Gen. 751 (1973); 43 Comp.Gen. 788, 792 (1964).