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.
The Federal Court of Justice recently clarified a number of issues under the Budapest Convention on the Contract for the Carriage of Goods by Inland Waterway – most importantly, the determination (calculation) of the limitation per weight of goods. According to the court, only the weight specified in the transport document can be invoked; if no weight is mentioned in the transport document, the carrier must rely on the limitation per package.
The German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) 2017 are designed to protect forwarders and close any potential liability risk gaps, particularly for organisations involved in air transport. In order to clarify the issue of whether the ADSp 2003 applied only to transport that was governed by German law, the updated ADSp stipulate that they do not apply to international transport.
The Munich Higher Regional Court recently confirmed that 'delivery' under the Commercial Code essentially means the procurement of direct possession. While the physical seizure of transported goods by a consignee is unnecessary, the goods must be made available to the consignee in such a way that it can, without further obstacles, seize control of the goods. The court also clarified how to classify the unloading of valuable goods in front of an unattended warehouse without an agreement or instructions.
The Berlin Administrative Court recently considered the action of an environmental association admissible but unfounded. The association had sought a declaration that introducing long trucks or 'gigaliners' to regular operation and extending the trial operation of certain extra-long trucks was illegal. While this judgment strengthens the road transport route, given that the operation of extra-long trucks is limited by the density of the cargo, the use of gigaliners might not affect competition with rail transport.
The Federal Court of Justice recently ruled on two risk exclusion clauses in transport insurance policies that are especially relevant for the export and import industries. While the decision has resolved some of the legal uncertainty surrounding transport insurance, it will likely apply to all types of insurance. As far as risk exclusion clauses are concerned, the court has made it clear that exclusion clauses should be interpreted restrictively.