Hunting for Answers
Letter from Chaille
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 12/1/2003
After my first editorial appeared in the magazine, I had to endure a barrage of criticisms from our staff about my picture. One staff member even told me that it looked like I had a small spot on my scalp just like Mikhail Gorbachev. I heard one person say, "Chaille, your face doesn’t look that fat in real life." My brother came out of his office with a big smile on his face. He said, "Your hairline is receding faster than mine." He pointed at the picture with a sense of accomplishment. People told me I need a hair cut. Others said I need to shave.
Well, I’ve decided to go searching for just the right look. My picture this month reflects what a primitive frontiersman hunter might have worn. You may be wondering what any of this has to do with the industry. If you want to know, read on…
For years pallet recyclers have been hunting around in the dark when it comes to proprietary pallets in the general exchange pool. There are lots of questions and few real answers. What can you ‘legally’ do with a pallet that has "property of XXXX" stenciled on the side? Some companies return them to the ‘rightful owner’ for a fee. Others provide these pallets to a mutual customer. Some end up using the pallets within their facilities, dismantling them for lumber or even grinding them.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not taking sides or condoning any of the above behavior. Some of these actions may be illegal. You must know the laws in your state and consult your attorney for specific advice. But it does appear that we are starting to learn how the federal courts may look at the legal issues surrounding proprietary pallets.
In CHEP USA v. Mock Pallet Company the
Judge Beverly Martin rejected Mock’s claim to ownership of stray CHEP-marked pallets. The court did not view Mock’s mere possession of the pallets or CHEP’s allowing customers to ship the pallets to non-participating distributors as grounds for transferring title. As the second major case declaring CHEP the owner of stray CHEP-marked pallets, the question of who owns them may be settled in the minds of many in the industry. Others still want to fight the issue.
On the flip side, Judge Martin ruled that Mock Pallet acted as a ‘naked’ depository for CHEP-marked pallets and as such has a lien on the pallets until CHEP agrees to pay sorting and storage fees. The federal court denied CHEP’s request for punitive damages and 72 hour notification.
The outcomes in both the Buckeye and Mock cases are only legally binding to the parties involved in the cases. However, these cases could prove legally persuasive if you end up in court over the issue of proprietary pallets. These rulings are considered the prevailing legal opinion in their jurisdiction.
For those who feel like they are hunting for answers and keep on coming up empty handed, the growing body of legal opinion should help. There also are talks going on between key industry leaders and CHEP to help answer questions about legal ways to deal with CHEP-marked pallets. A deal could be brokered soon according to sources close to the talks.
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