Shtutman v. Ocean Marine Shipping Inc.

In Carriage of Goods by Sea on (Updated )

The Plaintiff alleged that the carrier was liable for the loss of the contents of a container carried by sea from Halifax to Conakry. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleged that the carrier had either mis-delivered the container or that the contents of the container had been stolen while the container was in the possession of the carrier. Unfortunately, the Plaintiff’s case depended primarily on the admissibility of letters from the consignee which stated that the container was empty when received and had no lock or seal. The Judge reviewed the law relating to the admissibility of hearsay evidence and noted that such evidence may be admissible if it meets the twin tests of reliability and necessity. The Judge found that this test had not been met and refused to admit the letters. The Judge further accepted the evidence of the Defendant’s witness that the container had been delivered to the consignee. Accordingly, the Judge held that the Plaintiff had failed to meet the onus on it of proving the loss of the cargo while in the possession of the carrier. The Judge further held that the exclusion clause on the reverse of the carrier’s bill of lading would have applied in any event since clauses excluding or limiting liability after discharge from the ship were not invalidated by Art. III r. 8 of the Hague-Visby Rules.