A professional trucking company was hired to transport our grain from one storage facility to another. It turns out that one of the trailers used to transport the grain was previously used to transport treated seed. The treated seed has now contaminated not only the grain from that trailer load, but the grain in the entire bin, since it was mixed with the grain that was in the bin.
Is the truck driver responsible for making sure his trailer is free of contaminants prior to hauling our product, or is that our responsibility. The trucking company is denying any responsibility.
I am assuming you are the shipper in this scenario. I am also assuming truck driver is an employee of the trucking company. In a case like this, the trucking company is definitely responsible for the grain you hired it to transport. Also, it may be liable for contaminating the entire bin.
First, if the trucking company transported your grain through interstate lines, that is to say it picked it up in one state and delivered it to another, then its liability falls under the Carmack Amendment. This is a law which provides the exclusive remedy for carrier liability in interstate commerce. However, if trucking company transported your grain intrastate, that is to say it picked it up in the same state as it delivered it, then the laws of that state would most likely control (there are always exceptions).
Second, in order to accurately answer this question, it is extremely important to know what was on the Bill of Lading (which acts like the delivery contract). The trucking company may be denying responsibility based on certain exclusions of coverage within the Bill of Lading. However, carriers (in this case the trucking company) are almost always liable for delivering the goods in the same condition they picked them up.
Also, it is important to determine whether the trucking company knew what type of grain it was delivering and whether it should have known that mixing the grain with treated seed would contaminate it. Most likely, it is responsible for knowing this.
Finally, it is important to determine whether the trucking company had insurance because the insurance company may have to cover this claim even if the trucking company is denying responsibility.
I have only provided a general discussion of the issues. An issue like yours can become quite complex because there are many facts and sub-issues to consider. It is impossible to give you an absolute answer based on the limited facts. You must speak with an attorney who specializes in transportation law in order to get more concrete answers.
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