Understanding When to Use a Household Goods Bill of Lading

Believe it or not, using the wrong bill of lading form may result in a huge financial loss, with or without movers insurance. For those who are not aware of the Metcalf and the Minnesota school district lawsuit, allow us to give you a short version of the story. Metcalf, the mover, provided a quote of $19,854 to the school district in order to transport school property. When all was said and done, Metcalf billed Minnesota for $65,845 instead, based on the “tariff” rate for the services actually performed. Of course, Metcalf was sued and in the end, suffered a loss of $45,991. Why? He was not fully aware of the definition of “household goods.”

In 1995, Congress redefined the term “household goods.” So, what is the definition?

“The term ‘household goods’, as used in connection with transportation, means personal effects and property used or to be used in a dwelling, when a part of the equipment or supply of such dwelling, and similar property if the transportation of such effects or property is:

1.    arranged and paid for by the householder, except such term does not include property moving from a factory or store, other than property that the householder has purchased with the intent to use in his or her dwelling and is transported at the request of, and the transportation charges are paid to the carrier by, the householder; or

2.    arranged and paid for by another party.”

It appears that Metcalf, relying on Minnesota’s definition of household goods would be able to quote one price and then collect his tariff charge as required by MN law. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s definition of household goods was the “old” definition which included so-called Proviso II and III shipments –which included the property of stores, offices, museums, institutions, hospitals, etc. As the MA Court of Appeals pointed out to Metcalf, in 1994 Congress preempted state regulation of intrastate transportation except for household goods and transport by water between non-contiguous states. As the property Metcalf no longer met Congress definition of household goods, the state’s definition was meaningless … and Metcalf’s tariff did not apply!

At Wolpert Insurance, we believe that it is important for all moving and storage companies to hear this story of Metcalf. If you are not careful or mindful of the type of bill of lading you are using, you may find yourself in legal trouble. For example, if you move a piano or organ owned by a “householder”, its household goods, if owned by a non-householder it’s not household goods and in order to limit your liability [60¢] and impose time limitations for filing claims and instituting suits, you need to move the property subject to a non-household goods (“Property”) tariff and b.o.l.

Lucky for you, we offer reliable insurance for movers and storage companies. We want to make sure your company does not have to suffer a large financial loss due to errors, accidents, etc. This specialized policy can provide coverage such as motor truck cargo, general liability, automobile liability, commercial property, occupational accidents and much more. Be sure to grab a free quote today!