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Law Offices of John C. Lane
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Intermodal Liability
Intermodal Providers Obtain Complete Indemnity From Truckers

In our regular representation of intermodal equipment lessors and lessees, we routinely need to seek indemnity from truckers and others who have had accidents and incurred liabilities while using intermodal containers and chassis owned by our clients. We seek indemnification based upon common law theories, and pursuant to contractual provisions such as those found in equipment interchange agreements, and in the Intermodal Interchange & Facilities Access Agreement (“UIIA”). We proceed through litigation, often succeeding on motions for summary judgment, and we also pursue the same remedies by non-litigation means by presenting the evidence of the agreements, and of investigative materials, to truckers’ insurers. Very often we are able to persuade the insurers to agree to indemnify our clients, defend them in ongoing litigation, and to reimburse them in full for amounts already incurred for legal fees and expenses.

We invite inquiries about this interesting area of our practice and will be pleased to provide specific case references. You may all us at 201-848-6000 or e-mail us at: info@jclane.com.


Successfully Obtained Reimbursement of Defense Costs for International Corporation Engaged in the Business of Containerized Ocean Transportation

Plaintiff allegedly sustained serious injuries when he was involved in an automobile accident with a tractor that was hauling our client’s intermodal ocean container. We obtained complete indemnity from the trucker.

In defending the case we successfully moved for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s case, and obtaining an order directing the trucker to indemnify our client for their defense costs incurred in the defense of the action. We were able to prove to the Court that our client was not negligent, did not exercise any control over the trucker, and could not be held vicariously liable for the actions of the trucker. 

The trucker tried to argue that the driver of the tractor was not working for them at the time of the occurrence. Through the use of documented evidence maintained at the ocean terminal, we were able to prove that the trucker both signed out our client’s container and subsequently returned it to the terminal. We were also able to prove that the trucker was contractually obligated to defend and indemnify our client, and was obligated to reimburse our client for all their defense costs. 

Richard J. Bachmann v. Nelcido A. Liranzo, et al., Superior Court of New Jersey, April 2007


Summary Judgment Against Injured Rail Yard Worker 

Plaintiff was injured while working as a yard tractor driver at a CSX rail yard in New Jersey. He was parking an intermodal chassis and a shipping container that had just come off a train from the West Coast after an ocean voyage from the Far East. As the worker backed the rig into a parking slot, it jack knifed, causing his serious knee injury. The plaintiff sued our client, the agent of the owner of the container. Plaintiff’s expert found no defects in the rail yard premises or in our client’s chassis. He claimed that there had been an improper loading of the container, resulting in a change in the center of gravity, which then may have caused the jackknife. His theory was unsupported by facts. This was a sealed house-to-house shipment. We argued that neither the agent nor the shipowner had any obligation to open and inspect the sealed container, citing strong federal maritime case law to that effect. The Superior Court agreed and granted our motion for summary judgment. 

Cirone v. Evergreen America Inc., et al., Superior Court of New Jersey, December 2008 


Korean Freight Forwarder and U.S. Agent Not Liable For Death of New Jersey Worker 

In this unfortunate case, a warehouse worker died instantly from injuries sustained while he was unloading a shipping container loaded with medical-grade tubing contained in crates stacked high inside the container. A stack of the goods fell over on top of him. The container had been loaded in Korea by the manufacturer and another company, and was then closed and sealed with a traditional numbered shipping seal used to discourage theft or vandalism. The same seal was still on the container when it reached the decedent’s place of employment. The shipper retained our client, a Korean freight forwarder and non-vessel operating common carrier, to arrange shipment from Pusan to New Jersey. Arrangements were made for the container to travel onboard ship from Korea to Tacoma and then cross-country to New Jersey. There, a local trucker picked up the container, which was mated to a chassis at the rail yard, and the trucker made the final delivery to the decedent’s employer. 

The Estate sued our client, alleging that it either loaded the container or should have inspected it to be sure that the load was proper and secure. The court agreed with us, that neither the freight forwarder, who never touched the container, nor even the ocean carrier, had any right or duty to break the seal, open the container and inspect its contents, in the absence of some emergency, such as smoke or fumes emanating from the unit. Our client was granted summary judgment. 

Estate of Lising v. Daegu Export Packaging, Superior Court of New Jersey, 2009


Complete Indemnification for Chassis Lessor in Accident Involving Loss of Arm

Our client, a major lessor of intermodal chassis, was sued by a truck driver who lost his left arm at the shoulder when his tractor, hauling the chassis and a shipping container, rolled over on a curved off-ramp from the New Jersey Turnpike. The driver was ejected and pinned between the truck and the guard rail, causing the serious injury. He claimed that the chassis brakes did not perform properly and that the design and maintenance of the chassis were faulty. He also sued the manufacturer, as well as the ocean terminal that maintained the chassis. The defendants all claimed that excessive speed, not a mechanical defect, caused the accident. The defendants all had brake experts who reached the same conclusion.

We pursued contractual indemnity from the trucker and insurance coverage from its insurer. Initially, they both declined our claims. They capitulated when they realized our earnest intent to move for summary judgment and to commence a declaratory judgment action against the insurer. The insurer accepted our tender and confirmed coverage, and repaid our client for our prior legal bills. It then retained us to continue the defense in this complicated case involving design, manufacturing, and federal regulation issues. The case eventually settled on very acceptable terms. 

Leonel Sanchez v. Menu Foods, et al., Superior Court of New Jersey, 2007