How Limited Is “Limited Agency”? Lower Courts Rock the Boat By Broadly Applying the Supreme Court’s Narrow Kirby Guidelines for Interpreting Bills of Lading

Richard L. Kilpatrick, Jr. | Article

Resisting the urge to comment on the first two significant holdings adopted in Kirby, this Article seeks illuminate the legal difficulties surrounding the application of the limited agency doctrine within the perceived boundaries of the Supreme Court’s framework. First, this article discusses the unique commercial relationships among entities involved in intercontinental transportation that have contributed to the formation of the doctrine. It then analyzes the narrow limited agency guidelines espoused in Kirby and the precedential and policy bases on which it relied. After exploring the emerging trend in the lower courts to apply the doctrine more expansively, it highlights and evaluates the arguments available to litigants seeking application of such broad interpretations and finally offers suggestions for the resolution of the current uncertainty.