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Carr v. Hoosier Photo Supplies, Inc.
441 N.E.2d 450 (Ind. 1982)
Litigation in this cause began with the filing of a complaint in Marion Municipal Court by John R. Carr, Jr. (hereinafter “Carr”), seeking damages in the amount of $10,000 from defendants Hoosier Photo Supplies, Inc. (hereinafter “Hoosier”) and Eastman Kodak Company (hereinafter “Kodak”). Carr was the beneficiary of a judgment in the amount of $1,013.60. Both sides appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in its entirety.
The facts were established by stipulation agreement between the parties and thus are not in dispute. In the late spring or early summer of 1970, Carr purchased some Kodak film from a retailer not a party to this action, including four rolls of Kodak Ektachrome-X 135 slide film that are the subject matter of this dispute. During the month of August, 1970, Carr and his family vacationed in Europe. Using his own camera Carr took a great many photographs of the sites they saw, using among others the four rolls of film referred to earlier. Upon their return to the United States, Carr took a total of eighteen  rolls of exposed film to Hoosier to be developed. Only fourteen  of the rolls were returned to Carr after processing. All efforts to find the missing rolls or the pictures developed from them were unsuccessful. Litigation commenced when the parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
The film Carr purchased, manufactured by Kodak, is distributed in boxes on which there is printed the following legend:
This film will be replaced if defective in manufacture, labeling, or packaging, or if damaged or lost by us or any subsidiary company even though by negligence or other fault. Except for such replacement, the sale, processing, or other handling of this film for any purpose is without other warranty of liability.
In the stipulation of facts it was agreed though Carr never read this notice on the packages of film he bought, he knew there was printed on such packages “a limitation of liability similar or identical to the Eastman Kodak limitation of liability.” The source of Carr’s knowledge was agreed to be his years of experience as an attorney and as an amateur photographer.
When Carr took all eighteen  rolls of exposed film to Hoosier for processing, he was given a receipt for each roll. Each receipt contained the following language printed on the back side:
Although film price does not include processing by Kodak, the return of any film or print to us for processing or any other purpose, will constitute an agreement by you that if any such film or print is damaged or lost by us or any subsidiary company, even though by negligence or other fault, it will be replaced with an equivalent amount of Kodak film and processing and, except for such replacement, the handling of such film or prints by us for any purpose is without other warranty or liability.
Again, it was agreed though Carr did not read this notice he was aware Hoosier “[gave] to their customers at the time of accepting film for processing, receipts on which there are printed limitations of liability similar or identical to the limitation of liability printed on each receipt received by Carr from Hoosier Photo.”
It was stipulated upon receipt of the eighteen  rolls of exposed film only fourteen  were returned to Hoosier by Kodak after processing. Finally, it was stipulated the four rolls of film were lost by either Hoosier or Kodak.…
That either Kodak or Hoosier breached the bailment contract, by negligently losing the four rolls of film, was established in the stipulated agreement of facts. Therefore, the next issue raised is whether either or both, Hoosier or Kodak, may limit their liability as reflected on the film packages and receipts.…
[A] prerequisite to finding a limitation of liability clause in a contract unconscionable and therefore void is a showing of disparity in bargaining power in favor of the party whose liability is thus limited.…In the case at bar the stipulated facts foreclose a finding of disparate bargaining power between the parties or lack of knowledge or understanding of the liability clause by Carr. The facts show Carr is an experienced attorney who practices in the field of business law. He is hardly in a position comparable to that of the plaintiff in Weaver, supra. Moreover, it was stipulated he was aware of the limitation of liability on both the film packages and the receipts. We believe these crucial facts belie a finding of disparate bargaining power working to Carr’s disadvantage.
Contrary to Carr’s assertions, he was not in a “take it or leave it position” in that he had no choice but to accept the limitation of liability terms of the contract. As cross-appellants Hoosier and Kodak correctly point out, Carr and other photographers like him do have some choice in the matter of film processing. They can, for one, undertake to develop their film themselves. They can also go to independent film laboratories not a part of the Kodak Company. We do not see the availability of processing as limited to Kodak.…
We hold the limitation of liability clauses operating in favor of Hoosier and Kodak were assented to by Carr; they were not unconscionable or void. Carr is, therefore, bound by such terms and is limited in his remedy to recovery of the cost of four boxes of unexposed Kodak Ektachrome-X 135 slide film.
The Court of Appeals’ opinion in this case is hereby vacated. The cause is remanded to the trial court with instructions to enter a judgment in favor of appellant, John R. Carr, Jr., in the amount of $13.60, plus interest. Each party is to bear its own costs.
Hunter and Pivarnik, JJ., concur. Prentice, J., concurs in result without opinion.
DeBruler, J., dissenting.
…As a general rule the law does not permit professional bailees to escape or diminish liability for their own negligence by posting signs or handing out receipts. [Citations] The statements on the film box and claim check used by Kodak and Hoosier Photo are in all respects like the printed forms of similar import which commonly appear on packages, signs, chits, tickets, tokens and receipts with which we are all bombarded daily. No one does, or can reasonably be expected, to take the time to carefully read the front, back, and sides of such things. We all know their gist anyway.
The distinguished trial judge below characterizes these statements before us as “mere notices” and concludes that plaintiff below did not “assent” to them so as to render them a binding part of the bailment contract. Implicit here is the recognition of the exception to the general rule regarding such notices, namely, that they may attain the dignity of a special contract limiting liability where the bailor overtly assents to their terms. [Citations] To assent to provisions of this sort requires more than simply placing the goods into the hands of the bailee and taking back a receipt or claim check. Such acts are as probative of ignorance as they are of knowledge. However, according to the agreed statement of facts, plaintiff Carr “knew” by past experience that the claim checks carried the limitation of liability statements, but he did not read them and was unaware of the specific language in them. There is nothing in this agreed statement that Carr recalled this knowledge to present consciousness at the time of these transactions. Obviously we all know many things which we do not recall or remember at any given time. The assent required by law is more than this; it is, I believe, to perform an act of understanding. There is no evidence of that here.
The evidence presented tending to support the award of damages included an actual uncontroverted amount of $13.60 thereby precluding mere nominal damages. There was further evidence that 150 exposures were lost. The actual award of $1,014.60 amounted to between $6.00 and $7.00 per picture. Carr provided evidence that the pictures were of exceptional value to him, having been taken in a once-in-a-lifetime European trip costing $6000 [about $33,000 in 2110 dollars], including visits arranged there before hand with relatives. The award was fair and just compensation for the loss of value to the owner and does not include sentimental or fanciful value.
The trial court judgment should be affirmed.
Mieske v. Bartell Drug Co.
593 P.2d 1308 (Wash. 1979)
This case determines the measure of damages for personal property, developed movie film, which is destroyed, and which cannot be replaced or reproduced. It also decides the legal effect of a clause which purports to limit the responsibility of a film processor to replacement of film.…
The facts are that over a period of years the plaintiffs had taken movie films of their family activities. The films started with the plaintiffs’ wedding and honeymoon and continued through vacations in Mexico, Hawaii and other places, Christmas gatherings, birthdays, Little League participation by their son, family pets, building of their home and irreplaceable pictures of members of their family, such as the husband’s brother, who are now deceased.
Plaintiffs had 32 50-foot reels of such developed film which they wanted spliced together into four reels for convenience of viewing. Plaintiff wife visited defendant Bartell’s camera department, with which she had dealt as a customer for at least 10 years. She was told that such service could be performed.
The films were put in the order which plaintiffs desired them to be spliced and so marked. They were then placed in four separate paper bags which in turn were placed in one large bag and delivered to the manager of Bartell. The plaintiff wife explained the desired service and the manner in which the films were assembled in the various bags. The manager placed a film processing packet on the bag and gave plaintiff wife a receipt which contained this language: “We assume no responsibility beyond retail cost of film unless otherwise agreed to in writing.” There was no discussion about the language on the receipt. Rather, plaintiff wife told the manager, “Don’t lose these. They are my life.”
Bartell sent the film package to defendant GAF Corporation, which intended to send them to another processing lab for splicing. Plaintiffs assumed that Bartell did this service and were unaware of the involvement of two other firms.
The bag of films arrived at the processing lab of GAF. The manager of the GAF lab described the service ordered and the packaging as very unusual. Yet it is undisputed that the film was in the GAF lab at the end of one day and gone the next morning. The manager immediately searched the garbage disposal dumpster which already had been emptied. The best guess is that the plaintiffs’ film went from GAF’s lab to the garbage dumpster to a truck to a barge to an up-Sound landfill where it may yet repose.
After several inquiries to Bartell, plaintiff wife was advised to call GAF. Not surprisingly, after being advised of the complete absence and apparent fatality of plaintiffs’ films, this lawsuit ensued.…
Two main issues are raised: (1) the measure of damages and (2) the effect of the exclusionary clause appearing on the film receipt.
On damages, the defendants assign error to (a) the court’s damages instruction and (b) the court’s failure to give their proposed damages instruction.
The standard of recovery for destruction of personal property was summarized in [McCurdy]. We recognized in McCurdy that (1) personal property which is destroyed may have a market value, in which case that market value is the measure of damages; (2) if destroyed property has no market value but can be replaced or reproduced, then the measure is the cost of replacement or reproduction; (3) if the destroyed property has no market value and cannot be replaced or reproduced, then the value to the owner is to be the proper measure of damages. However, while not stated in McCurdy, we have held that in the third McCurdy situation, damages are not recoverable for the sentimental value which the owner places on the property. [Citations]
The defendants argue that plaintiffs’ property comes within the second rule of McCurdy, i.e., the film could be replaced and that their liability is limited to the cost of replacement film. Their position is not well taken. Defendants’ proposal would award the plaintiffs the cost of acquiring film without pictures imposed thereon. That is not what plaintiffs lost. Plaintiffs lost not merely film able to capture images by exposure but rather film upon which was recorded a multitude of frames depicting many significant events in their lives. Awarding plaintiffs the funds to purchase 32 rolls of blank film is hardly a replacement of the 32 rolls of images which they had recorded over the years. Therefore the third rule of McCurdy is the appropriate measure of damages, i.e., the property has no market value and cannot be replaced or reproduced.
The law, in those circumstances, decrees that the measure of damages is to be determined by the value to the owner, often referred to as the intrinsic value of the property. Restatement of Torts s. 911 (1939).
Necessarily the measure of damages in these circumstances is the most imprecise of the three categories. Yet difficulty of assessment is not cause to deny damages to a plaintiff whose property has no market value and cannot be replaced or reproduced. [Citations]
The fact that damages are difficult to ascertain and measure does not diminish the loss to the person whose property has been destroyed. Indeed, the very statement of the rule suggests the opposite. If one’s destroyed property has a market value, presumably its equivalent is available on the market and the owner can acquire that equivalent property. However, if the owner cannot acquire the property in the market or by replacement or reproduction, then he simply cannot be made whole.
The problem is to establish the value to the owner. Market and replacement values are relatively ascertainable by appropriate proof. Recognizing that value to the owner encompasses a subjective element, the rule has been established that compensation for sentimental or fanciful values will not be allowed. [Citations] That restriction was placed upon the jury in this case by the court’s damages instruction.…
Under these rules, the court’s damages instruction was correct. In essence it allowed recovery for the actual or intrinsic value to the plaintiffs but denied recovery for any unusual sentimental value of the film to the plaintiffs or a fanciful price which plaintiffs, for their own special reasons, might place thereon.…
The next issue is to determine the legal effect of the exclusionary clause which was on the film receipt given plaintiff wife by Bartell. As noted above, it read: “We assume no responsibility beyond retail cost of film unless otherwise agreed to in writing.”
Is the exclusionary clause valid? Defendants rely upon 2-719(3), a section of the Uniform Commercial Code, which authorizes a limitation or exclusion of consequential damages unless the limitation is unconscionable.
Plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that the Uniform Commercial Code is not applicable to this transaction.…It is now clearly established that the reach of Article 2 goes considerably beyond the confines of that type transaction which the Code itself defines to be a “sale”; namely, the passing of title from a party called the seller to one denominated a buyer for a price. Chief opportunity for this expansion is found in Section 2-102, which states that the article applies to “transactions in goods.” “Article 2 sections are finding their way into more and more decisions involving transactions which are not sales, but which are used as substitutes for a sale or which to a court appear to have attributes to which sales principles or at least some of them seem appropriate for application.…Most important of these is the application of the Article’s warranty provisions to leases, bailments, or construction contracts. Of growing importance is the tendency of courts to find the Section on unconscionability, Section 2-302, appropriate to nonsales deals.”
Application of the Uniform Commercial Code to this transaction leads to defendants’ next two contentions. First, they urge that the code’s recognition of course of dealings and trade usage validates the exclusionary clause. Second, defendants assign error to the grounds upon which the court found the clause to be unconscionable and therefore invalid.
Defendants contend that it is the uniform trade practice of film processors to impose an exclusionary clause similar to that contained in Bartell’s film receipt. However, the existence of a trade usage is to be established as a fact [Citation]. It was proved as a usage among film processors, but not as between commercial film processors and their retail customers.…Consequently, defendants’ reliance on trade usage to uphold the exclusionary clause is not well founded.
As to course of dealings, the record is clear that Mrs. Mieske and the Bartell manager never discussed the exclusionary clause. Mrs. Mieske had never read it, she viewed the numbered slip as merely a receipt. The manager was not “too clear on what it said.” There was no showing what was the language on any other receipt given in prior dealings between the parties. In summary, defendants’ proof fell short of that required by the express language of 1-205(3). Defendants contend we should apply a course of dealing standard as a matter of law, but cite no authority for such proposition. We decline the invitation.
Defendants next assert that the trial court held the exclusionary clause to be unconscionable without considering the rules laid down in Schroeder v. Fageol Motors, Inc., 544 P.2d 20 (1975). In Schroeder, we recognized that the term unconscionable is not defined in the Uniform Commercial Code. We acknowledge that the code mandates the court to determine unconscionability as a matter of law, 2-302(1). Schroeder held that numerous factors enter into a determination of unconscionability. No one element is controlling. The court must examine all the circumstances surrounding the transaction, including conspicuousness of the clause, prior course of dealings between the parties, negotiations about the clause, the commercial setting and usage of the trade. Not each element will be applicable factually to every transaction.…
The real question is whether the court considered the necessary elements of Schroeder. A review of the record convinces us that it did. The court had the facts, the Schroeder case was argued, the criteria set forth therein were discussed by defendants’ counsel both on objections and on exceptions. There was no error. Judgment affirmed.
Calvin Klein Ltd. v. Trylon Trucking Corp.
892 F.2d 191C.A.2 (N.Y. 1989)
Defendant-appellant Trylon Trucking Corp. (“Trylon”) appeals from a judgment…in favor of plaintiff-appellee Calvin Klein Ltd. (“Calvin Klein”) for the full value of a lost shipment of clothing. The appeal presents a novel issue under New York law: whether a limitation of liability agreement between a shipper and a carrier is enforceable when the shipment is lost as a result of the carrier’s gross negligence.
The district court held that the parties’ customary limitation of liability agreement did not extend to the shipment at issue, due to the absence of assent and consideration. The court observed that, had there been such an agreement, the liability of the carrier for its gross negligence would be limited. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the district court, find that the parties agreed to the limitation of liability, and determine that the agreement limits Trylon’s liability for its gross negligence.…
Trylon is a New Jersey trucking firm which engaged in the business of transporting goods from New York City’s airports for delivery to its customers’ facilities. Calvin Klein, a New York clothing company, had used the services of Trylon for at least three years, involving hundreds of shipments, prior to the lost shipment at issue. In past deliveries Calvin Klein, through its customs broker, would contact Trylon to pick up the shipment from the airport for delivery to Calvin Klein’s facility. After completing the carriage, Trylon would forward to Calvin Klein an invoice, which contained a limitation of liability provision as follows:
In consideration of the rate charged, the shipper agrees that the carrier shall not be liable for more than $50.00 on any shipment accepted for delivery to one consignee unless a greater value is declared, in writing, upon receipt at time of shipment and charge for such greater value paid, or agreed to be paid, by the shipper.
A shipment of 2,833 blouses from Hong Kong arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport for Calvin Klein on March 27, 1986. Calvin Klein arranged for Trylon to pick up the shipment and deliver it to Calvin Klein’s New Jersey warehouse. On April 2, Trylon dispatched its driver, Jamahl Jefferson, to pick up this shipment. Jefferson signed a receipt for the shipment from Calvin Klein’s broker. By April 2, the parties discovered that Jefferson had stolen Trylon’s truck and its shipment. The shipment never was recovered. Calvin Klein sent a claim letter to Trylon for the full value of the lost blouses. In the absence of any response by Trylon, Calvin Klein filed this action…to recover $150,000, allegedly the value of the lost shipment.…
In their stipulation in lieu of a jury trial, the parties agreed that Trylon is liable to Calvin Klein for the loss of the shipment and that Trylon was grossly negligent in the hiring and supervision of Jefferson. They also agreed that “[t]he terms and conditions of [Trylon]’s carriage [were] that liability for loss or damage to cargo is limited to $50 in accordance with the legend on Trylon’s invoice forms.” Calvin Klein conceded that it was aware of this limitation of liability, and that it did not declare a value on the blouses at the time of shipment.
The parties left at issue whether the limitation of liability clause was valid and enforceable. Calvin Klein argued in the district court, as it does here, that the limitation clause was not enforceable for two reasons: no agreement existed between Calvin Klein and Trylon as to the limitation of liability; and, if such an agreement existed, public policy would prevent its enforcement because of Trylon’s gross negligence.
The district court applied New York law, finding that the carriage was exempt from the Interstate Commerce Commission’s jurisdiction, being entirely within the New York City commercial zone.…
A common carrier…under New York law is strictly liable for the loss of goods in its custody. “Where the loss is not due to the excepted causes [that is, act of God or public enemy, inherent nature of goods, or shipper’s fault], it is immaterial whether the carrier was negligent or not.…” [Citations] Even in the case of loss from theft by third parties, liability may be imposed up on a negligent common carrier. [Citation]
A shipper and a common carrier may contract to limit the carrier’s liability in cases of loss to an amount agreed to by the parties [Citations], so long as the language of the limitation is clear, the shipper is aware of the terms of the limitation, and the shipper can change the terms by indicating the true value of the goods being shipped. [Citations]…(similar scheme under Interstate Commerce Act). Such a limitation agreement is generally valid and enforceable despite carrier negligence. The limitation of liability provision involved here clearly provides that, at the time of delivery, the shipper may increase the limitation by written notice of the value of the goods to be delivered and by payment of a commensurately higher fee.
The parties stipulated to the fact that the $50 limitation of liability was a term and condition of carriage and that Calvin Klein was aware of that limitation. This stipulated fact removes the first issue, namely whether an agreement existed as to a liability limitation between the parties, from this case. Calvin Klein’s argument that it never previously acknowledged this limitation by accepting only $50 in settlement of a larger loss does not alter this explicit stipulation. “[A] stipulation of fact that is fairly entered into is controlling on the parties and the court is bound to enforce it.” [Citations] Neither party here has argued that the stipulation was unfairly entered into.…
The remaining issue concerns the enforceability of the limitation clause in light of Trylon’s conceded gross negligence. The district court considered that, assuming an agreement between the parties as to Trylon’s liability, Trylon’s gross negligence would not avoid the enforcement of a limitation clause.
The district court found that New York law, as opposed to federal interstate commerce law, applies in this case. The parties do not seriously contest this choice of law. With the choice thus unchallenged, we must apply both established New York law as well as our belief of how the New York Court of Appeals would rule if this case were before it.…
Although the New York Court of Appeals has addressed a limitation of liability provision in the context of a contract between an airline and a passenger, [Citation] (refusing to enforce unilateral limitation provision for death of passenger due to defendant’s negligence), that court has never been called upon to enforce a limitation provision in the case of a grossly negligent common carrier of goods. The various departments of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court have addressed whether gross negligence bars enforcement of limitations of liability in the context of contracts for the installation, maintenance and monitoring of burglar alarm systems and are divided on the issue. Compare [Citation] (enforcing limitation despite gross negligence) and [Citation] (even if gross negligence were established, plaintiff’s recovery would be limited by limitation clause) with [Citation] (limitation clause cannot limit liability for gross negligence) and [Citation] (finding “no significant distinction” between complete exculpation and limitation “to a nominal sum,” therefore limitation is ineffective). The First Department distinguished between exculpatory provisions and limitation provisions, indicating that the latter would be effective even if the former are unenforceable due to the contracting party’s gross negligence. [Citations].…The other departments which have considered the question applied the holding of [Citation], that “[a]greements which purport to exempt a party from liability for willful or grossly negligent acts are contrary to public policy and are void.”…
Absent a rule of decision formulated by the New York Court of Appeals, we are not bound by the opinions issued by the state’s lower courts.…
In the absence of direct New York authority, we must make our best estimate as to how New York’s highest court would rule in this case. In making that determination, we are free to consider all the resources the highest court of the state could use, including decisions reached in other jurisdictions.…We believe that the New York Court of Appeals would not differentiate between gross negligence and ordinary negligence in recognizing the validity of the limitation of liability in this case.
Since carriers are strictly liable for loss of shipments in their custody and are insurers of these goods, the degree of carrier negligence is immaterial. [Citation] The common carrier must exercise reasonable care in relation to the shipment in its custody. U.C.C. § 7-309(1). Carriers can contract with their shipping customers on the amount of liability each party will bear for the loss of a shipment, regardless of the degree of carrier negligence. See U.C.C. § 7-309(2) (allowing limitation of liability for losses from any cause save carrier conversion). Unlike the parachute school student, see [Citation], or the merchant acquiring a burglar alarm, the shipper can calculate the specific amount of its potential damages in advance, declare the value of the shipment based on that calculation, and pay a commensurately higher rate to carry the goods, in effect buying additional insurance from the common carrier.
In this case, Calvin Klein and Trylon were business entities with an on-going commercial relationship involving numerous carriages of Calvin Klein’s goods by Trylon. Where such entities deal with each other in a commercial setting, and no special relationship exists between the parties, clear limitations between them will be enforced. [Citation]. Here, each carriage was under the same terms and conditions as the last, including a limitation of Trylon’s liability. See [Citation] (court enforced limitation on shipper who possessed over five years of the carrier’s manifests which included the $50 limitation). This is not a case in which the shipper was dealing with the common carrier for the first time or contracting under new or changed terms. Calvin Klein was aware of the terms and was free to adjust the limitation upon a written declaration of the value of a given shipment, but failed to do so with the shipment at issue here. Since Calvin Klein failed to adjust the limitation, the limitation applies here, and no public policy that dictates otherwise can be identified.
Calvin Klein now argues that the limitation is so low as to be void.…This amount is immaterial because Calvin Klein had the opportunity to negotiate the amount of coverage by declaring the value of the shipment.…Commercial entities can easily negotiate the degree of risk each party will bear and which party will bear the cost of insurance. That this dispute actually involves who will bear the cost of insurance is illustrated by the fact that this case has been litigated not by the principal parties, but by their insurers. Calvin Klein could have increased Trylon’s coverage by declaring the value of its shipment, but did not do so. Calvin Klein had the opportunity to declare a higher value and we find all of its arguments relating to the unreasonableness of the limitation to be without merit.
We reverse and remand to the district court with instructions to enter judgment against defendant in the sum of $50.