Estes Express Lines v. United States, No. 13-5056 (Fed. Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Salem, under contract, coordinated Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) shipments around the country. Estes, a federal motor carrier, handled some shipments under its common carrier tariff, without a written contract. The Salem-MCCS contract provided that Salem would pay carriers directly and invoice MCCS. Salem agreed not to represent itself as a representative of MCCS. All bills of lading indicated that “third party freight charges” were to be billed to “Marine Corps Exchange C/O Salem Logistics.” Delivery receipts specified that charges should be billed to the “Marine Corps Exchange” and were signed by a representative of the MCCS or MCX delivery location. MCCS paid Salem for some of the shipments; Salem never paid Estes. After becoming aware that Salem was not paying carriers, MCCS began paying carriers directly, for shipments for which it had not yet paid Salem. Estes sued Salem and the government, seeking to recover $147,645.33. The Claims Court dismissed, finding that there was no privity of contract between Estes and the government and rejecting a claim under 49 U.S.C. 13706, which governs the liability of consignees for shipping charges incurred by a common carrier. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that the bills of lading were sufficient to establish privity.