Lawsuit for Animals Death from Heat Exposure During Shipping by Air

In Deiro v. American Airlines, Inc., 816 F.2d 1360 (9th Cir. 1987) a veteran airline traveler elected to transport racing greyhounds as baggage aboard a commercial flight. The owner was provided with a copy of the ticket which, like the invoice in the current case, contained a limitation of liability clause on the front of the invoice in small print. Inside the ticket booklet was a clause in larger type which restated the terms and conditions set forth on the ticket. The greyhound's owner decided to ship his dogs as baggage but without declaring a higher value for them as was his option under the ticket provisions. Subsequently during transit, the greyhounds unfortunately died from heat exposure. The owner then sued to recover $ 900,000 which he contended was their appraised actual value. The district court granted summary judgment and ruled that the airline's maximum liability was $ 750.00, the amount specified in the ticket when no additional value had been declared by the ticketholder. On appeal the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The court was somewhat troubled by the use of the exceedingly small typeface in the limitation of liability clauses. However, in ultimately ruling that the contract provided reasonable notice of the carrier's limitation of its liability, the determinative factor for the court was not the size of the typeface used in the document, but rather the prior experience of the owner with these types of documents containing limitation of liability provisions. the court gave great weight to the fact that the dog owner was a veteran sophisticated airline traveler who flew commercial airlines six to ten times a year. The owner also was aware that there was writing printed on the ticket and had an opportunity to examine the provisions of the ticket before the flight was to take place. The court therefore concluded that since the dog owner had a reasonable opportunity to acquaint himself with the limitation of baggage liability provisions he should have done so in light of the fact that he was shipping such valuable cargo. Id. at 1364-1365.