Produce Pointers: Timely inspections

Cliff Sieloff
Cliff Sieloff is a Claims Analyst for Blue Book Services Inc.

The Problem
Inspection of blueberries taken four days after arrival.

The Key Point
Inspections taken more than three days after product arrives may be too late.

The Solution
Call for a government inspection as soon as possible.

Q: I’m a shipper located in Florida. I sold a blueberry load to the Bronx, NY on an f.o.b. basis. The product left on a Tuesday and delivered on a Thursday. Then, the following Monday, four days later, they call for an inspection. The inspection shows 16% average condition defects, which is more than what is allowed by PACA’s Good Arrival Guidelines. The receiver insists there’s a breach of the sales agreement and will claim damages. We do not think this inspection can be considered timely. Please advise.

A: It doesn’t sound like your buyer has shown these blueberries failed to make “good arrival.”

The question here is: does this inspection certificate show the product failed on the day the product arrived (i.e., on Thursday)? Our answer is no. It must be remembered that, after accepting a shipment, the buyer bears the burden of proving a breach of the sales agreement by a preponderance of the evidence. Here, given the presence of just 16% condition defects, in our view, the buyer has failed to show the blueberries were abnormally deteriorated

Generally speaking, an inspection taken more than three days after the product arrives may be found to be too remote to reflect the condition of the product upon arrival. If the buyer has concerns about the condition of the product upon arrival, an inspection certificate should be ordered as soon as practically possible.

If an inspection certificate cannot be obtained within a 48- to 72-hour period, the value of the inspection certificate as evidence may be reduced or even nullified. When delays occur, buyers should be prepared to show the product was properly stored while awaiting inspection, and that the percentage of defects reported are sufficiently advanced to establish that the product was abnormally deteriorated on the day of arrival.

Cliff Sieloff is a claims analyst for Blue Book Services’ Trading Assistance group.