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Mori Seiki USA Inc. v. Triumph

filed: March 23, 1993.

MORI SEIKI USA, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
M.V. ALLIGATOR TRIUMPH, HER ENGINES, TACKLE, ETC., IN REM, DEFENDANT, MITSUI O.S.K. LINES, LTD.; CAMELLIA CONTAINER CARRIER, S.A. PANAMA; TRANS PACIFIC CONTAINER SERVICE CORPORATION, MARINE TERMINALS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CV-90-4276-SVW. Stephen V. Wilson, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Procter Hug, Jr., Otto R. Skopil, Jr., and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Hug.

Author: Hug

HUG, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Mori Seiki USA, Inc. ("Mori Seiki") was the consignee of a precision lathe that was damaged while being transported from Nagoya, Japan to Houston, Texas. The lathe was damaged after it was unloaded from an ocean vessel at the Port of Los Angeles, but before it was released from the seaport. Mori Seiki filed suit in district court seeking damages from the ocean carrier (Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.), the ship (M.V. Alligator Triumph), the charterer/operator of the ship (Camellia Container Carrier, S.A. Panama), the seaport operator (Trans Pacific Container Service Corporation), and the stevedore services firm which unloaded and handled its lathe (Marine Terminals Corporation).

After partial summary judgment and trial, the district court held that the carrier's bill of lading limited the cumulative liability of all parties to $500 by contractually extending the liability limits already applicable under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA"). Mori Seiki now appeals the district court's orders. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.

I.

APPLICABILITY OF COGSA'S $500 PACKAGE LIMITATION AFTER DISCHARGE OF THE LATHE FROM THE SHIP

Mori Seiki contends that the district court erred by concluding that the bill of lading extended COGSA's $500 package liability limitation to the period during which the lathe was damaged, that is, the period after the lathe was discharged from the ship, but before it was released from the sea terminal. We disagree.

COGSA applies to all cargo shipments which are carried by sea, to or from the United States. See 46 U.S.C. §§ 1300-1315. By its own terms, COGSA limits liability for cargo damage to $500, if the damage occurs between the time the cargo is loaded on to the ship and the time it is discharged from the ship ("tackle to tackle"). 46 U.S.C. §§ 1304(5), 1301(e). Parties to a shipping agreement, however, may contractually extend the limitation period. 46 U.S.C. § 1307.

Section 7(2)(i) of the bill of lading at issue in this case, reads in relevant part:

With respect to loss or damage occurring during the period from the time when the Goods arrived at the sea terminal at the port of loading to the time when they left the sea terminal at the port of discharge . . . [the carrier shall be responsible for such loss or damage] to the extent prescribed by the applicable Hague Rules Legislation . . . .

The parties do not dispute that COGSA constitutes the "Hague Rules Legislation" which is applicable to this case.

The plain meaning of this language is that COGSA's liability limitation would extend to the period after the lathe was discharged from the ship, but before it was released from the sea terminal. We believe that this is precisely the kind of extension of the limitation period which is contemplated and authorized by 46 U.S.C. § 1307 and note that at least two courts have read substantially similar language in the same way. See B.M.A. Industries, Ltd. v. Nigerian Star Line, Ltd., 786 F.2d 90, 91 (2d Cir. 1986); GAF (Osterreich) GmbH v. Dart Containerline Co. Ltd., 541 F. Supp. 9, 11 (D.N.J. 1981).

Mori Seiki contends that COGSA's liability limitation was not extended under the bill of lading. Mori Seiki argues that under Section 2 of the bill of lading, COGSA applies to the contract only to the extent that it ...


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