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Russian Roulette

Michael Shoemaker

Volume 48 Issue 16

Aug 26, 2023

If you ship your car you expect it to arrive in the same condition as it left. If it doesn't that is where trouble can begin. Are you protected? Michael Shoemaker identifies areas you may be able to protect your car and wallet.

    RUSSIAN ROULETTE: The practice of loading a bullet into one chamber of a revolver, spinning the cylinder, and then pulling the trigger while pointing the gun at one’s head. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2023).

    You just bought a 1991 Ferrari F40 for a cool $1.3 million in California. It needs to get to Florida where you live. No problem.

    As you have done a number of times before (you  are a seasoned collector), you (“shipper”) contact your usual vehicle transporter (“carrier”).

    Arrangements are made, the vehicle is loaded into the truck without incident, and shipped to Florida.

    When it arrives, you see immediately that it’s been damaged. The carrier says “no problem.”


    The Ferrari is repaired by a licensed facility and everything is back to where it was. And then you read this article.

    With a growing, sickening feeling, you realize that your vehicle is not back to where it used to be.

    Unfortunately, after a diminished value expert’s examination, you discover that value has diminished $200,000 as a result of the shipment damage. And, you are about to find out that you can’t do a thing about it.

    It’s too bad. You didn’t read the back of the carrier’s bill of lading (“BOL”). If you had, you would have noticed the following:

    Shipper agrees that Carrier will not be liable for:

        1. Any loss of market value (read diminished value);

        2. Loss of use (you also have a $225,000 loss of use claim during the vehicle repair); and

    Further, Shipper agrees that:

        3. Any suit must be brought in Suffolk County, New York;

        4. New York State law governs the BOL; and

        5. In a dispute, the prevailing party is entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.

    This all means that because you didn’t read the back of the BOL, you gave up your right to be compensated for damages caused by the carrier, and if you try to get money for those damages and lose (which you probably will), you will owe the carrier’s attorney’s fees and costs.

    You shipped one too many cars without reading the BOL. You played Russian Roulette one too many times.


    How could you have removed the bullet from the chamber before the car was shipped and the cylinder started spinning? Try these steps:

        a) Redact the hold harmless language from the BOL (carrier probably won’t ship);

        b) Pay an extra fee to the carrier to cover any damages to the vehicle; or

        c) Buy insurance from an insurer to cover any damages to the vehicle (probably best idea).

    One of the distinctions that may be important in your considerations is the type of collector car you are involved with.

    The Ferrari F40 referred to above is primarily a street car that frequently has low mileage and no “stories.” 

    However, if you are involved with an old collector racecar such as a Ferrari 250 GTO or a Porsche 904 GTS that was raced, but could be driven on the street, it may have a colorful race history (accidents) but was repaired, often better than new.

    With an old collector racecar, a minor accident may not create a residual loss, especially if repaired properly.

    The collector car that you need to be careful with is the non-racecar whose virgin history forms a significant part of its value.

    There is a saying in aviation: “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”

    Remove the bullet from the chamber, and be an old, smart, successful, car collector and shipper.

    You won’t regret it.

    Michael (“Mike”) N. Shoemaker is a trial attorney licensed in Texas, Washington state, and selected federal courts. He represents clients for motor vehicle property damage and personal injuries. He was trial counsel for insurance companies for 20 years where he learned how insurance companies operate. Now, he represents clients against insurance companies, only. As he expands his practice, he looks forward to working with clients nationally and internationally for damages to vehicles including cars, trucks, and aircraft, as well as injuries. His aviation experience includes working for an FBO and a trunk airline. Also, he is a pilot. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board Of Legal Specialization. Contact: 5921 E. Post Oak Lane, Houston, Texas  77055,  713-898-9518,  281-763-7799  (fax),,

    Ernest A. Burguieres is a civil litigator in New Orleans and has been involved in collector cars for over 40 years. Contact: 829 Baronne St., New Orleans, Louisiana 70113, Tel. (504) 523-3456, Cell (504) 352-5270,

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