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Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, As Subrogee of Miami Perfume v. Seaboard Marine Ltd.

November 3, 2011

FIREMAN'S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY, AS SUBROGEE OF MIAMI PERFUME JUNCTION, AND MIAMI PERFUME JUNCTION, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SEABOARD MARINE LTD., INC., PRO TRANSPORT CHARLESTON, INC., AND PRO TRANSPORT, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edwin G. Torres United States Magistrate Judge

IN ADMIRALTY

CONSENT CASE

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT PERTAINING TO DAMAGES

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Seaboard Marine Ltd., Inc.'s ("Seaboard") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Pertaining to Damages [D.E. 36] filed June 13, 2011; Plaintiffs Fireman's Fund Insurance Company ("Fireman's") and Miami Perfume Junction's ("Miami Perfume") Response in Opposition thereto [D.E. 40] filed June 22, 2011; and Defendant's Reply [D.E. 41] filed June 27, 2011. The Court has reviewed the motion, the response, the reply, related authorities submitted by the parties, and the record in this case. For the following reasons, the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the Amended Complaint, on or about October 14, 2009, Seaboard entered into a contract for the carriage of a 40-foot container of perfumery products. [D.E. 26]. Plaintiff Miami Perfume was the consignee of the goods. The bill of lading that was issued for the subject shipment listed the following pertinent information under "DESCRIPTION OF PACKAGES AND GOODS":

40' DRY CONTAINER S.L.W.C. 55 CARTONS PERFUMERY PRODUCTS 25 PALLETS WITH 776 CARTONS 30 CARTON [D.E. 36-1].

Seaboard carried the cargo aboard the Seaboard Costa Rica to the Port of Miami, and released the cargo from the port terminal to Pro Transport, Inc., after receiving written orders from Miami Perfume to do so. [D.E. 36]. After leaving Seaboard's Port of Miami terminal via Pro Transport, the shipment arrived at the Pro Transport Terminal overnight and departed the morning of October 27, 2009, arriving at Miami Perfume's warehouse later that morning. When the container was unloaded, it was discovered that approximately 309 cartons of perfumery product were missing. Fireman's paid the sum of $292,234.00 to Miami Perfume in full settlement of its claim under the policy of insurance covering the transportation of the container of perfumery products. [D.E. 26]. As a result, Fireman's is subrogated to the rights of the assured and consignee of the subject container. Fireman's alleges six counts against one or all of the three Defendants.

On June 13, 2011, Seaboard filed the pending Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Pertaining to Damages, claiming that, because this case is governed by the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), 46 U.S.C. § 30701 note,*fn1 which applies to each and every claim for cargo loss arising out of a shipment to or from the United States by ocean carrier, then the following provision of COGSA applies:

Neither the carrier nor the ship shall . . . be . . . liable for any loss . . . in connection with the transportation of goods in an amount exceeding $500 per package . . . or in case of goods not shipped in packages, per customary freight unit . . ., unless the nature and value of such goods have been declared by the shipper before shipment and inserted in the bill of lading. This declaration, if embodied in the bill of lading, shall be prima facie case evidence, but shall not be conclusive on the carrier. 46 U.S.C. § 30701 note (hereinafter "Section 4(5)"). The bill of lading between Miami Perfume Junction and Seaboard also provides:

Except as otherwise provided in this Clause or elsewhere in this Bill of Lading, in case of any loss or damage to or in connection with cargo exceeding in value the equivalent of $500 lawful money of the United States per package, or in the case of cargo not shipped in packages, per shipping unit, the value of the cargo shall be deemed to be $500 per package or per shipping unit. [D.E. 36-1]. Seaboard claims, based on the above, that because the perfumery products were listed as being bundled in "25 PALLETS" on the bill of lading, then the COGSA section 4(5) liability limitation should apply to those 25 pallets as the COGSA "packages." Thus, if Seaboard were found liable for the loss or theft (which it denies), then the maximum amount of damages that Fireman's could possibly recover from Seaboard would be limited to the product of $500 multiplied by the number of pallets-a total of $12,500. [D.E. 36]. In its response, Plaintiffs argue that the "776 CARTONS" of perfumery products should be considered the COGSA "packages," not the 25 pallets. [D.E. 40]. In reply, Seaboard argues in the alternative that, should this Court not accept Seaboard's argument that the pallets should be considered the COGSA "package," then the maximum amount that Fireman's could possibly recover from Seaboard should still be limited to the product of $500 multiplied by the 309 alleged missing cartons-a total of $154,500-and not the $292,234.00 which it claims in the Amended Complaint that it is entitled to. [D.E. 41].

II. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Standard

A court shall grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "The moving party bears the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial. Only when that burden has been met does the burden shift to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment." Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). It is required that "the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 321, 324 (internal quotations omitted). Thus, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but . . . must set forth specific ...


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