Matter of: Air Land Forwarders File: B-247425 Date: June 26, 1992

B-247425: Jun 26, 1992

Additional Materials:

Contact:

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

 

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

Any loss or damage is presumed to have occurred in the hands of the last one. Was liable for the loss. One of the items received was a sealed 3.0 cubic foot carton (item 256) described on the inventory only as "stereo equipment.". Were delivered at Offutt Air Force Base. Were missing from the carton. A Notice of Loss or Damage (DD Form 1840R) was timely dispatched to the carrier on August 10. Air Land denies liability because the carton was packed by the NTS facility. Air Land says that the carton was sealed when that facility gave it to Air Land. That the carton still was sealed. The loss or damage is presumed to have occurred in the hands of the last bailee. The burden is on the carrier or other bailee to show either that the damage or loss did not occur while the item was in its custody.

Matter of: Air Land Forwarders File: B-247425 Date: June 26, 1992

PROCUREMENT Payment/Discharge Shipment Carrier liability Burden of proof Where goods pass through the hands of several bailees, any loss or damage is presumed to have occurred in the hands of the last one.

DECISION Air Land Forwarders requests review of our Claims Group's settlement denying the company a refund of $787.50 set off by the Air Force from funds otherwise due the carrier, for the loss of stereo equipment during the move of a service member's household goods. The Claims Group found substantial evidence of the tender and valuation of the three pieces of equipment, and that Air Land, as the delivering carrier, was liable for the loss. We affirm the settlement.

On May 15, 1987, Air Land received the household goods from a non- temporary storage (NTS) warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the items received was a sealed 3.0 cubic foot carton (item 256) described on the inventory only as "stereo equipment." The household goods, including the sealed carton, were delivered at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, on July 20, 1987, but the shipper claims that a Techniques graphic equalizer, a tape deck and a Kenwood S.I. amplifier, were missing from the carton. A Notice of Loss or Damage (DD Form 1840R) was timely dispatched to the carrier on August 10, 1987.

Air Land denies liability because the carton was packed by the NTS facility. Air Land says that the carton was sealed when that facility gave it to Air Land, and that the carton still was sealed, with no evidence of tampering, when Air Land delivered it. Air Land contends that if any party should be held liable for the loss, it should be the NTS facility.

However, a shipper establishes prima facie carrier liability for loss or damage in transit by showing tender of the item in a certain condition, non-delivery or delivery in a damaged condition, and the amount of loss or damage. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. v. Elmore Stahl, 377 U.S. 134, 138 (1964); Paul Arpin Van Lines, B-205084, June 2, 1982. When goods pass through the custody of several bailees, the loss or damage is presumed to have occurred in the hands of the last bailee. See Stevens Transportation Co., Inc., B-243750, Aug. 28, 1991. Once established, the burden is on the carrier or other bailee to show either that the damage or loss did not occur while the item was in its custody, or that the loss or damage occurred as a result of an excepted cause.

McNamara-Lunz Vans and Warehouses, Inc., 57 Comp.Gen. 415, 418 (1978).

Air Land has not established that the loss did not occur while it had custody of the member's shipment. In this respect, the fact that a carrier delivers a carton in a sealed condition does not in itself mean the carrier is not responsible for inventory items the shipper timely claims were missing. See McNamara-Lunz Vans and Warehouses, Inc., 57 Comp.Gen. at 417-418. Air Land's complaint that it only delivered the member's goods as tendered to it by the NTS facility does not relieve the firm of liability as the last bailee.

The Claims Group's settlement is affirmed.

To: Director, Claims Group/GGD Sharon Green From: General Counsel James F. Hinchman Subject: Air Land Forwarders, Inc. (Z-223409-68) (B-247425)

Returned is your Claims File Z-223409-68 and a copy of our decision affirming your settlement.