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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit case out of Wisconsin offers cautionary lesson

In Treiber & Straub v. UPS, a 13-page opinion, Judge Wood begins:

Treiber & Straub, Inc. (“Treiber”), a fine-jewelry store in Wisconsin, needed to return a diamond ring to a California jewelry wholesaler. It turned to United Parcel Service, the world’s largest package delivery company and, using the UPS website, it arranged to send the package via “Next Day Air.” As part of the transaction, it purchased $50,000 in insurance, the maximum permitted.

The ring was worth more than double that $50,000 limit—a fact that gave rise to Treiber’s problems here after UPS lost the package. Treiber reimbursed the wholesaler for the full loss and then filed this lawsuit against UPS and UPS Capital Insurance Agency, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of UPS that administers UPS’s excess value insurance program. (For simplicity, we refer in this opinion to both defendants as UPS.) Treiber wanted to collect the $50,000 for the lost package to which it believed it was entitled. UPS denied liability, pointing to the disclaimer found in its “Terms and Conditions,” its shipping tariff, and its insurance policy. These documents warn (repeatedly) that when customers ship items of “unusual value,” defined as those worth more than $50,000, there is no liability at all.

Finding federal jurisdiction proper because the case arose under the rules of federal common law that apply to lost or damaged goods shipped via air freight, the district court granted summary judgment for UPS. The court found that the company’s disclaimers gave reasonable notice and were enforceable; it declined to reach Treiber’s state law breach-of-contract theory, rejecting UPS’s argument that it too arose under federal law because of field preemption. Both UPS and Treiber appealed. We affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment for UPS on the federal common law claim, and we modify the court’s decision dismissing the state law claims without prejudice to a dismissal with prejudice.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 9, 2007 12:57 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions