Contract regulation determined carrier’s liability for stolen goods

In a recent judgment, the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court emphasises the importance of regulating liability in contracts of carriage. The judgment concerns international carriage of LEGO by road. The goods carried were lost the night before the agreed time of delivery. The carrier's conduct in connection with the loss was directly defined as grossly negligent in the framework agreement concluded by the parties, and the carrier was therefore ordered to pay damages.

In 2013, DSV Road A/S and LEGO System A/S concluded a framework agreement for logistics and transport services. During international carriage of goods by road, one of DSV Road A/S’s sub-contractors parked his vehicle close to the place of delivery the day before the goods were to be delivered. The goods were lost during the night due to theft. 

The main dispute was whether the carrier, DSV Road A/S, was liable to pay the total loss of around EUR 172,000 sustained by LEGO System A/S and LEGO Company Limited, or whether DSV Road A/S was only to pay damages corresponding to the limitation of liability in CMR legislation, which would imply liability to pay damages of around EUR 43,000. Accordingly, the difference is approx. EUR 129,000. 

The question as to whether DSV Road A/S was liable to pay damages for the total loss was to be answered on the basis of section 37 of the CMR Act according to which the determining factor was whether DSV Road A/S (including its sub-contractors) had been grossly negligent. 

The driver’s parking in an unguarded industrial road and his conduct otherwise was contrary to the parties’ framework agreement, including safety regulations in an annex to the framework agreement, according to which the conduct displayed was characterised as grossly negligent. As a consequence, DSV Road A/S was liable to pay the total amount to LEGO System A/S according to section 37 of the CMR Act. 

The judgment emphasises how important it is to consider the regulation of liability in contracts of carriage thoroughly and is an example that careful consideration prior to concluding contracts of carriage governed by the mandatory CMR legislation may have decisive importance in case of later disputes about lost goods. 

The judgment has not been appealed.

Read the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court's decision of 17 December 2020 (in Danish)

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