Judge Finds Sandy Losses a Legal ‘Act of God’


     MANHATTAN (CN) – Blame the Superstorm, not the shipper, for the loss of 211 cartons of ladies cardigans and sweaters washed ashore by Hurricane Sandy, a federal judge told Lord & Taylor department store on Wednesday.
     Tearing apart much of the Jersey Shore, Sandy struck the New York City area on Oct. 29, 2012.
     Killing dozens of people from Canada to the Caribbean, the storm surprised many with its devastating toll and 9-foot storm surge. It knocked out power to 6 million people, and stacked up billions of dollars in economic damages.
     For Lord & Taylor, however, the shipping company and terminal did not do enough to prepare for the disaster. The department store sued Zim Integrated Shipping Services and New York Container Terminal (NYCT) in Manhattan Federal Court in 2013.
     But U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres found the case came down to a term of art.
     “Although Hurricane Sandy was figuratively an act of God, the question before the court is whether Hurricane Sandy was legally an act of God that absolves defendant, Zim, of liability for plaintiffs loss,” she wrote on Wednesday. “The answer is yes.”
     Today’s ruling follows a bench trial this past October that lasted less than a week.
     After the parties finished turning in their post-trial briefings in late 2014, Torres kicked off the new year with a visit to New York Container Terminal in the northwest corner of Staten Island before issuing her ruling.
     Lord & Taylor had long argued that the storm’s wrath was foreseeable.
     “Foreseeability, however, depends on certainty, and certainty is a matter of degree,” Torres countered in a 58-page opinion. “Hurricanes happen every year and – to an extent – are clearly foreseeable. But, the regularity of their occurrence does not defeat the act of God defense.”
     Torres noted that Superstorm Sandy “was unprecedented and exceeded worst-case expectations.”
     Lord & Taylor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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