MY OPINION–LEGAL LIABILITY FOR ACTS OF GOD?
There is no doubt that damage by hurricane or flood to goods in your care, custody or control is clearly part of the “Acts of God” exclusion found in nearly all Bills of Lading or Warehouse Receipts. You may not bear any legal liability for the initial damage by windstorms or floods.
After you get over the shock that there was a foot of water in your warehouse, that part of your roof is gone, or that two of your trucks were swept away by water, what do you do next?
First, contact your insurance person to report any damage and to find out what coverage you might have. Some cargo policies do not exclude flood damage; some policies have high deductibles for windstorm damage. However, many policies written for moving & storage companies have some “clean-up” coverage to prevent further loss. Find out what coverage you might have and what conditions might apply.
Next, as soon as possible start separating the damaged from the undamaged property. You should do this even if there is no insurance for clean-up. Water does not destroy everything – many things can be dried and repacked. This would be the action of a “prudent businessman” – to prevent further damage to customer’s goods.
In the final analysis, “legal liability” is what a judge determines. There have been instances where a warehouseman has been judged legally liable for not preventing further damage – not doing what the prudent businessman would have done.
If household goods are not cleaned, dried and re-packed, mold and mildew will develop. This could contaminate your entire warehouse or be a danger to you and your employees. Obviously, moldy goods cannot be delivered to your customers.
Do the right thing and act quickly to prevent more problems in the future.