651 F.3d 1175 (9th Cir. 2011), 09-55028, Federal Ins. Co. v. Union Pacific R. Co.

Docket Nº:09-55028.
Citation:651 F.3d 1175
Opinion Judge:FISHER, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Dennis A. Cammarano, Cammarano & Sirna, LLP, Long Beach, CA, for the plaintiff-appellant. Leslie G. McMurray, Law Offices of Leslie G. McMurray, Valley Village, CA, for the defendant-appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: ALEX KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, MICHAEL D. HAWKINS and RAYMOND C. FISHER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 13, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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651 F.3d 1175 (9th Cir. 2011)

FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 09-55028.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

July 13, 2011

Argued and Submitted Feb. 9, 2011.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Dennis A. Cammarano, Cammarano & Sirna, LLP, Long Beach, CA, for the plaintiff-appellant.

Leslie G. McMurray, Law Offices of Leslie G. McMurray, Valley Village, CA, for the defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Otis D. Wright, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:08-cv-03212-ODW-AJW.

Before: ALEX KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, MICHAEL D. HAWKINS and RAYMOND C. FISHER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

FISHER, Circuit Judge:

This is another maritime case about a train wreck. Federal Insurance Company (FIC) sues for damage to property destroyed during the inland leg of international intermodal carriage. FIC is the subrogee of the shipper, Text International Pte. Ltd. (Text International), which contracted with an ocean carrier, APL Co. Pte. Ltd. (APL), to ship goods from Singapore to Alabama. APL subcontracted with Union Pacific Railroad Co. (UP) for rail carriage inland from San Pedro, California. UP's train derailed, destroying Text's goods. FIC had insured the goods and paid Text for the loss, subrogating to Text's legal rights against UP and APL.1 FIC sued UP and lost on summary judgment. We review de novo the grant of summary judgment and affirm.

The district court ruled that a covenant not to sue in the through bill of lading required FIC to sue the carrier, APL, rather than UP, a subcontractor. On appeal, FIC argues that the covenant not to sue is unenforceable. FIC briefed the appeal solely on the theory that the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 11706 (1995), governed the shipment's inland leg and prohibited the covenant not to sue; its opening and reply briefs relied heavily on our court's opinion in Regal-Beloit Corp. v. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., 557 F.3d 985 (9th Cir.2009).

The Supreme Court subsequently reversed our decision. See Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. v. Regal-Beloit Corp., __ U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 2433, 2444, 177 L.Ed.2d 424 (2010). FIC concedes that under Kawasaki the Carmack Amendment does not apply to this case. Nevertheless, FIC maintains that the covenant not to sue is prohibited by an alternative legal regime— the Harter Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30704 (2006).2 FIC neglected to make its Harter

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Act argument in its filings in the district court or its initial briefs on appeal.3

We consider arguments raised for the first time on appeal only in " exceptional circumstances." AlohaCare v. Haw. Dep't of Human Servs., 572 F.3d 740, 744-45 (9th Cir.2009) (quotation marks omitted). FIC suggests two exceptional circumstances exist here: (1) Kawasaki was a " change in law rais[ing] a new issue while [the] appeal [was] pending," id. at 744-45 (quoting Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir.1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted); (2) the issue is " purely one of law," id. (same). With respect to the first circumstance, there was no relevant change in the law. FIC " could easily have made" its Harter Act argument before the Supreme Court issued Kawasaki . Turnacliff, 546 F.3d at 1120. The Harter Act argument is, however, a purely legal issue; that is, it " ‘ does not affect or rely upon the factual record developed by the parties, and will not prejudice the party against whom it is raised.’ " Dream Palace v. Cnty. of Maricopa, 384 F.3d 990, 1005 (9th Cir.2004) (quoting Janes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 279 F.3d 883, 888 n. 4 (9th Cir.2002)). Whether the covenant not to sue is enforceable turns on two issues we can resolve based on the undisputed facts: First, what legal regime applies to the shipment's inland leg under the through bill of lading? See L.K. Comstock & Co. v. United Eng'rs & Constructors Inc., 880 F.2d 219, 221 (9th Cir.1989) (explaining that interpretation of a contract without reliance on extrinsic evidence is a question of law that we review de novo). Second, does the applicable legal regime prohibit the covenant not to sue? We agree with UP that the Harter Act does not apply and the covenant not to sue is enforceable.

I

The through bill of lading contained a paramount clause specifying the applicable legal regime.4 The paramount clause made the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), 46 U.S.C. § 30701 note, applicable " [f]rom loading of the Goods onto the Vessel until discharge of the Goods from the Vessel," and the Hague Rules applicable " [p]rior to loading onto the Vessel and after discharge from the Vessel." 5

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Because the damage here occurred after discharge from the vessel, the Hague Rules plainly apply.

The Hague Rules are " virtually identical" to COGSA for purposes of this case, so we apply our precedent interpreting COGSA to the paramount clause's reference to the Hague Rules. In re Damodar Bulk Carriers, Ltd., 903 F.2d 675, 681 (9th Cir.1990) (finding no error where the district court applied COGSA to a contract referring to the Hague Rules). Compare COGSA § 7, 46 U.S.C. § 30701 note, with Hague Rules art. 7, 51 Stat. 233. As a general rule, the Harter Act, rather than COGSA, applies to goods before delivery to and after discharge from a vessel. See N. River Ins. Co. v. Fed Sea/Fed Pac Line, 647 F.2d 985, 987 n. 3 (9th Cir.1981). The Harter Act, however, can be displaced by a contract extending COGSA to the transport of goods before delivery to and after discharge from a vessel. See Starrag v. Maersk, Inc., 486 F.3d 607, 615 (9th Cir.2007) (" [W]here the parties contractually extend the COGSA to cover the damage, the Harter Act does not apply." ); Sea-Land, 285 F.3d at 816-17 (" [B]ecause COGSA is incorporated by contract into [the] bills of lading, ‘ it, rather than the Harter Act, controls.’ " (quoting N. River, 647 F.2d at 987)). By the same reasoning, the paramount clause here validly extended the Hague Rules to displace the Harter Act. We enforce the paramount clause and analyze the covenant not to sue under the Hague Rules and COGSA.

II

The through bill of lading's covenant not to sue is enforceable because FIC can still seek a full recovery from the carrier, APL. The covenant states:

4. SUB-CONTRACTING

...

ii) The Merchant undertakes that no claim or allegation shall be made against any Person whomsoever by whom the Carriage is procured, performed or undertaken, whether directly or indirectly (including any independent contractors and any...

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