Proving a Breach of Proper Shipping Condition Guarantee – Produce Blue Book


Less pain, more gain

“Has the consignor supplied a product which would arrive at the contract destination without abnormal deterioration under normal conditions of transport, as required by the guarantee of suitable shipping conditions promulgated under the Commodities Act perishable crops?

It’s a mouthful, and a bit confusing.

Luckily, almost everyone in the fresh produce industry knows (more or less) what you mean when you simply ask, “Did the produce arrive safely?” »

But as the scenario described in this article will demonstrate, sometimes it’s not the condition of the product that makes or breaks a claim as much as the buyer’s lack of diligence.

Suitable or not?
Consider the following scenario: A shipment of avocados is shipped on December 8 and arrives on December 11. The buyer unloads the product but does not request inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) until December 15, four days after unloading.

The USDA inspection takes place on December 15 and shows normal dough temperatures, but 31% overripe.

The buyer claims the portable temperature recorder listed on the bill of lading was never found, but the invoices were signed “clean” with no mention that the recorder was missing.

Based on these rather simple facts and the good reputation of the buyer involved here, we would be inclined to guess that these lawyers were in fact not loaded with proper shipping conditions.

Thirty-one percent overripe is far more deteriorated than you would expect at destination, even taking into account the four-day delay to get the inspection.

Additionally, the pulp temperatures reported by the USDA inspector suggest that the avocados were properly stored prior to inspection.

So why wouldn’t the high percentage of overripe fruit combined with the right pulp temperatures be enough to establish a break with the seller?

After all, inspections after long weekends are sometimes done three days after arrival, so what’s one more day? It’s also not uncommon for portable recorders to get lost in a mess.

But if it were acceptable to wait four days before calling for an inspection, and to agree to sign for the recorders but not produce the temperature tapes, wouldn’t that give too much leeway to potential actors?

Timeline, trust and facts
While no one thinks the buyer involved is a bad actor, there is no doubt that the buyer was able to resolve the uncertainty seen here simply by requesting a timely inspection and securing the temperature recorder. , or noting that it was missing on arrival. .

Should the buyer benefit from the doubt created by his own lack of diligence?

Should reputable buyers cash in on their reputation once in a while in exchange for the benefit of the doubt?

We do not think so. In fact, we think some of the more reputable companies would be more willing to take responsibility for their mistakes. We will learn from it.

Of course, a seller can always ignore these issues and work with the buyer as they see fit, given all the circumstances.

But if things go wrong and a more technical assessment is needed, we should conclude that the buyer has not done enough to justify the violation it alleges here.

If it was acceptable for buyers to sign for recorders they never picked up, how would sellers know that the product was not hot during the trip and then cooled to normal before the requested inspection by the USDA?

And, if the lawyers were showing signs of over-maturity when they arrived, why didn’t the receiver act more quickly? It’s not like avocados are going to get better with a few days off.

The delay may also call into question whether these were really the same avocados shipped on December 8. How would the seller know that the lawyers in question were not involved with an older shipment prior to inspection?

Timely inspections tend to reduce this type of uncertainty. Timely inspections also allow buyers to start selling the product sooner, reducing losses for whoever ends up absorbing them.

Even if you’re not convinced by our reasoning – or want more detail – these are examples of issues buyers can expect to face when inspections aren’t obtained in a timely manner, or when portable recorders listed on the bill of lading are not considered.

Of course hindsight is 20/20 and mistakes will happen. But a commitment to diligently following receiving protocols saves buyers less and more.


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