With the decision dated the 28th October 2016, the Court of Appeal of Reggio Calabria stated an important principle concerning the liability of the carrier of goods by sea for damages caused by the delay incurred in performing the contract.
The dispute concerned a cargo claim for damages suffered by a shipment of fresh vegetables carried by ship from Alexandria (Egypt) to Gioia Tauro (Italy). On the website of the carrier it was touted its ability to cover such sea passage in just two days, making particular reference to the carriage of perishable goods. In the case before the Court, however, instead of arriving at the port of Gioia Tauro within the planned day, the ship had reached her final destination with a 5 days delay.
Since all the cargo had perished due to the delay, the receiver, assisted by Studio Legale Turci, lodged a claim for compensation against the carrier.
The Court of Appeal upheld the application, stating that – even in the absence of an express contractual term on time for delivery agreed between the parties – the carriage had to be performed within a “reasonable period of time“, to be assessed taking into consideration the nature of the shipment.
Provided that the perishable nature of the goods to be carried was clearly evident from the description in the bill of lading, the carrier had the duty to perform the voyage within the time frame the other party had reasonably relied upon and, failing the proof that the cause of the delay was excluded from the carrier responsibility as a matter of law, the carrier was responsible for the damages caused to the goods “because a late delivery deprived the service of any utilities, making it no longer suitable to meet the interest of the recipient“.