The opinion of the court was delivered by: Politan, District Judge.
ORIGINAL ON FILE WITH CLERK OF THE COURT
This matter comes before the Court on defendant Sea-Land
Service, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment and plaintiff Ace Bag
& Burlap Co., Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter was
decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 78. For the reasons stated herein, defendant Sea-Land
Service, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
Furthermore, plaintiff Ace Bag & Burlap Co., Inc.'s Motion for
Summary Judgment is DENIED and its' Complaint is DISMISSED
STATEMENT OF FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff Ace Bag and Burlap Co., Inc. ("plaintiff") is a
corporation engaged in the business of manufacturing and trading
burlap and jute bags. See Stipulation of Facts at ¶ 3.
Defendant Sea-Land Service Co., Inc. ("Sea-Land") is engaged in
the business of ocean carriage of merchandise. See id. at ¶ 5.
In May 1995, plaintiff made arrangements to purchase a quantity
of jute bags from a manufacturer in Bangladesh with the intention
of selling the jute bags to the Association de Exportadores
("ADECAFE"), an association of Honduran coffee growers. See id.
at ¶ 4. Thereafter, Sea-Land entered into a contract of carriage
with a shipper (arranged by the Bangladeshi manufacturer) to
carry five (5) twenty-foot containers constituting 180 bales of
Hessian jute bags aboard the M/V SINTRA, an oceangoing vessel
chartered and controlled by Sea-Land. See id. at ¶ 5. The goods
were loaded in Chittagong, Bangladesh for carriage, through the
port of Puerto Cortes, Honduras, to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
See id. at ¶ 6. On or
about May 30, 1995, Sea-Land issued Bill of Lading No. 324-026482
to the shipper evidencing the contract of carriage. See id. at
During the ocean voyage, plaintiff became the owner of the jute
bags, having obtained title by negotiating the original bill of
lading from the shipper. See id. at ¶ 8. ADECAFE then
contracted with plaintiff to purchase the 180 bales of Hessian
jute. See id. at ¶ 9. The transaction with ADECAFE was to be
consummated via site draft negotiation. See id. The original
bill of lading was dispatched by plaintiff to a bank in Honduras
to be delivered to ADECAFE upon payment of the sum of $90,000.00.
See id. at ¶ 10.
The MV/SINTRA sailed from Bangladesh with the five containers
on board and arrived at Puerto Cortes, Honduras on or about July
29, 1995. See id. at ¶ 7. Sea-Land then transported the goods
to a leased lot where Sea-Land was met by Honduran Customs
Authorities. See Declaration of Jorge R. Pineda at ¶ 5. It is
undisputed that a customs broker, AGENCIA ADUANERA ARGUELLO, then
submitted four petitions to the customs office requesting
permission to move the containers from the leased lot to an
inland warehouse. See Stipulation of Facts at ¶ 12. The customs
office accepted the petitions without requiring presentment of
the original bill of lading (which had been dispatched by
plaintiff to a bank in Honduras) and issued Authorization Pass
Nos. 006605, 06606, 06607, 06608. See id. Pursuant to
authorization from the customs office, the containerized goods
were transported by Sea-Land from the leased lot to the ALMACAFE
Warehouse, a fiscal or "bonded" warehouse, which is authorized by
the Customs Authorities of Honduras to store goods until customs
clearance has been granted. See id. at ¶¶ 11, 13; see also
Declaration of Jorge R. Pineda at ¶ 5. Thereafter, the goods were
either disbursed or converted by persons unknown. See id. at ¶
13. Neither ADECAFE nor any other person made payment to the bank
in exchange for the original bill of lading. Consequently,
plaintiff never received payment for the goods, and the bank
eventually returned the original bill of lading. See id. at ¶
The issue before this Court is whether Sea-Land effectuated
"proper delivery" of the five containers holding 180 bales of
Hessian jute bags when it followed the Honduran Customs
Authorities' order to transfer the cargo to the ALMACAFE fiscal
warehouse without requiring presentment of the bill of lading.
Sea-Land contends that it is entitled to summary judgment
because it discharged its duties as a carrier under the contract
of carriage and bill of lading by properly delivering the goods,
under mandatory Honduran Customs laws and regulations, to the
ALMACAFE fiscal warehouse. Arguing that presentment of the bill
of lading was not necessary since delivery was made to "a person
entitled to possession," Sea-Land contends that it did, in fact,
effectuate a proper delivery by safely delivering the goods to
the port authorities at the leased lot and later, to the ALMACAFE
warehouse. See Declaration of Jorge R. Pineda at ¶ 4.
Plaintiff, however, contends that Sea-Land did not properly
deliver the goods because the authorization for transfer forms
issued by the Honduran Customs Authority were not "mandatory" but
were, instead, "permissive." Additionally, plaintiff asserts
that, while it may be true that Sea-Land received "authorization"
from customs officials to move the containers from the leased lot
to the ALMACAFE fiscal warehouse, such "permission" does not
alleviate Sea-Land's duty to be sure that the "authorizations"
issued by the customs authorities were supported by original
bills of lading.
I. Standard of Review for Summary Judgment
[t]he judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if
the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material if it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, ...