Altadis USA, Inc. v. Sea Star Line, LLC

PETITIONER: Altadis USA, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Sea Star Line, LLC, et al.
LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 06-606
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 549 US 1189 (2007)
GRANTED: Jan 05, 2007
DECIDED: Feb 12, 2007

Facts of the case

Altadis USA, Inc. hired Sea Star Line, LLC (Sea Star) to ship a container of cigars from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Tampa, Florida. According to the contract, which was negotiated under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), the container would travel by ship until it reached port at Jacksonville, Florida. From there, American Trans-Freight, Inc. (ATF) would truck it to Tampa. Sea Star issued a "'through' bill of lading" which held Sea Star liable for the container's safety during both the land and sea portions of its transport. The container was stolen from an ATF truck and Altadis filed a claim against Sea Star in District Court. The one-year statute of limitations for filing a COGSA claim had expired and the District Court dismissed the suit. Altadis argued that the Carmack Amendment imposed a two-year minimum statute of limitations period on liability claims relating to the transport of goods into the United States.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the Carmack Amendment's liability rules did not apply to the inland portion of transport because ATF did not issue a separate bill of lading. Other U.S. Courts of Appeals had ruled that the Carmack Amendment did not require a separate bill of lading to cover the inland portion of transport.

Question

Does the Carmack Amendment apply to the inland portion of a shipment's transport into the United States even if the inland carrier does not issue a separate bill of lading?

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