Understanding inherent vice and moving company damage claims

Author
Christopher Noblit
Inherent vice and moving company damage claims

"Inherent vice" is a term which every mover -- and every moving customer -- should understand when considering claims for loss or damage.
 
The term "inherent vice" is a legal tenet referring to a hidden defect (or the very nature) of an article which of itself is the cause of (or contributes to) its deterioration or damage.
 
Such characteristics or defects make such an item an unacceptable risk to a carrier or to an insurer. If the characteristic or defect is not visible -- and if the carrier or the insurer has not been warned of it -- neither the carrier nor the insurer may be liable for any claim arising solely out of the inherent vice.
 
For example, a roofing material used by the roof installer may not be able to withstand a wind force of more than 15 miles per hour and it is not the fault of the installer that it blew off. Rather, it is the material's inherent vice which caused the damage.
 
In other words, insurers insure against risks which might happen, but not against events which must happen due to the inherent vice of a given article.
 
Another example would be particle board furniture which was meant to be shipped in a box. When particle board furniture is moved assembled, it is certain to break due to the nature of how the furniture is assembled and due to the method by which the particle board material is manufactured. As a result, we advise customers they have three (3) options when they need to move particle board furniture...
 
Option #1: Dismantle the article themselves and pack it into a box, and the mover will be responsible for any damage to the item (in accordance with the liability option the customer has selected).
 
Option #2: Pay the movers to dismantle the article and pack it into a box, and the mover will be responsible for damage to the item (in accordance with the liability option the customer has selected).
 
Option #3: Have the mover move the article assembled and the customer must sign a liability release which releases the mover from responsibility for loss or damage to the article.
 
Why Option #3? It is simply because there is inherent vice in particle board furniture when it is moved and transported assembled: it will become damaged due to the way it is assembled and manufactured.

To summarize, inherent is the hidden defect (or the very nature) of a good or property which of itself is the cause of (or contributes to) its deterioration, damage, or wastage. Such characteristics or defects make the item an unacceptable risk to a carrier or insurer. If the characteristic or defect is not visible, and if the carrier or the insurer has not been warned of it, neither of them may be liable for any claim arising solely out of the inherent vice.

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