In a March 2019 case, the Hamburg Higher Regional Court had to decide whether the claimant had a control and inspection duty under the Commercial Code and, if so, to what extent the damage should be reduced for reasons of contributory negligence. The decision clarifies that shippers can rely on carriers to provide a sound transport vehicle.
A recent Higher Regional Court of Dusseldorf decision concerning the partial loss of goods has strengthened the position of carriers. The court found that it is not enough to inform a carrier's driver of the risk of theft only when loading goods, as the carrier will have no time to assess the situation. The notification of risk must be made in good time so that the carrier can make a decision in the normal course of business.
No matter how well goods are packaged and how great the effort of a carrier to consign a delivery in perfect condition to the customer, damage to goods, pallets and packaging cannot always be avoided. If damage occurs, the carrier will quickly be faced with a claim for damages, either from the shipper, the recipient or their insurer. The Federal Court of Justice redefined the calculation of damages in a ruling at the end of 2018.
According to the Bremen Higher Regional Court, if agreed by contracting parties, goods can be delivered by parking a shipping container in front of the consignee's premises during non-business hours. In such instances, the carrier will not be liable if the cargo is stolen. This decision is a useful reminder that parties to a transport contract must have unequivocal terms of delivery.
The Budapest Convention on the Contract for the Carriage of Goods by Inland Waterways (CMNI) states that all claims arising from contracts regulated thereunder become time barred one year after the day on which the goods were or should have been delivered to the consignee. A Higher Shipping Maritime Court decision serves as a useful reminder that Article 24 of the CMNI applies to all claims relating to transport, regardless of which party raises them or whether they concern tortious or enrichment matters.
Federal Court of Justice case law suggests that, in multimodal transport cases, voyages always have a series of sections and there are no stages without sections. However, a recent Hamburg Regional Court decision suggests that there may be transport stages in a multimodal transport system that cannot be attributed to a particular section.
In a decision which conflicts with the examination sequence typically preferred by the Federal Court of Justice, the Hamburg Higher Regional Court ruled that a carrier's liability had been miscalculated and that that contributory negligence should have been examined before the limitations of liability. The court opined that, in view of Section 254 of the Civil Code, contributory negligence should be considered after or in conjunction with determining concrete damages and before the limitations of liability.
The Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) are general terms of service recommended by several trade associations. In a recent non-published decision, the Dresden Higher Regional Court addressed whether, in addition to the place of jurisdiction specifications in Section 30.3 of the ADSp 2017, the place of jurisdiction rules set out in Section 30(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure also apply in legal disputes against freight forwarders.
The distinction between freight and forwarding contracts is a common subject of legal disputes in Germany, as freight forwarders are generally liable only for organisational or selection faults and can usually relieve themselves of liability if they can prove that they chose a conscientious carrier. A recent Verden Regional Court ruling on the liability of a carrier for loss of goods and delayed delivery provides useful clarity in this context.
In a notable hull insurance case, the Celle Court of Appeal dismissed an action brought by an assured pleasure yacht owner who had been sailing on the Baltic Sea and ran aground. The case facts suggest that assureds are often unaware of the impact that outdated chart materials can have on hull insurance and liability cover.
The Logistics Terms and Conditions (Logistik-AGB) 2019, which were jointly revised by the German Association for Freight Forwarding and Logistics, the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal and the Federal Association of Furniture Forwarders and Logistics, will enter into force on 1 July 2019. The new terms and conditions will replace the Logistik-AGB 2006 and supplement the Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions 2017.
The Higher Regional Court of Dusseldorf recently confirmed the underlying principle of Article 18(2)(d) of the Montreal Convention – namely, that air carriers cannot be held liable for damages which are entirely outside their sphere of risk and influence. However, this decision is also a useful reminder that an exclusion of liability clause is not a free pass for carriers.
How should the weight of a shipment containing damaged goods but usable pallets be calculated, considering that this would form the basis for liability? According to a recent Federal Court of Justice decision, if the pallets are still usable, only the net weight of the goods counts. The court held that it is necessary to look closely at what has been damaged, as the fate of some items is not necessarily the fate of others.
Daimler, MAN, Volvo/Renault, DAF, Iveco and Scania are facing billion-dollar damages claims from carriers for illegal price fixing. To date, more than 7,000 transport companies from 26 countries have filed over 300 claims in excess of €1 billion in the German courts. However, the spillover effects on the transport sector remain unclear. A recent Dortmund Regional Court decision provides much-needed clarity in this regard.
The German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) are a joint body of recommendations for shipping industry associations and freight forwarders. However, given that there are (at least) three versions – namely, ADSp 2003, ADSp 2016 and ADSp 2017 – many companies struggle to clearly identify the ADSp on which they should base their services.
A recent Bremen Regional Court decision serves as a stark reminder to carriers that all contractual obligations, particularly those relating to security instructions, must be fulfilled and that any carrier found to have breached these obligations could face unrestricted liability in the event of damages. Carriers should carefully assess the feasibility of implementing any listed safety instructions before accepting transport contracts.
The Koblenz Higher Regional Court recently confirmed that tour operators cannot be held liable by cruise passengers for gym injuries sustained during large swells. The decision re-emphasises the fact that ships shift constantly at sea and that all passengers should therefore take appropriate care while on board – particularly during large swells – as failure to do so may deny them the ability to claim damages if an accident occurs.
The Verden Regional Court recently sentenced a forwarder to pay full compensation plus interest calculated at nine percentage points above the basic lending rate under the Civil Code. Upholding the forwarder's appeal, the Celle Higher Regional Court held that the interest rate should be reduced to five percentage points above the basic lending rate, which is more in line with interest claims under the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road.
While settling claims out of court to avoid losing customers is becoming standard practice in the shipping and transport industry, such payments should not be made prematurely – particularly if the carrier's responsibility for the damage is unclear. In most cases, the opposing party interprets such goodwill payments as an acknowledgement of debt at a later stage in the proceedings. Therefore, carriers are advised to draw up a brief compensation declaration to avoid having to compensate twice.
In its capacity as a court for inland navigation, the Mannheim District Court recently settled a dispute between an inland waterway carrier and a sender. The sender had instructed the carrier on short notice and despite the express statement by the carrier that its vessel was not yet available. According to the court's interpretation of the transport contract, the flexibility agreed in respect of loading readiness was to be understood as an exemption of liability for late delivery.