Annapolis doll dealer sues shipper Errors led to delay, fine, suit alleges ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

April 16, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Annapolis company that deals in collectible dolls sued a California shipping company yesterday, charging that it mishandled a $500,000 shipment of French dolls.

The errors delayed delivery and forced the Annapolis company to pay $46,677 in fines for violations of French customs regulations, it charged in a suit filed yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against Emery Air Freight Corp., of Palo Alto, Calif.

Theriault's, a division of the Fleetville Group, Limited, in the 2100 block of Renard Court, in Annapolis, is seeking $1.1 million in damages. It claims that because the dolls were delayed 13 months by Emery's mistakes their value decreased by $75,000.

The shipment was made up of five steamer-sized trunks and six large boxes, "five of which were the size of refrigerators," the suit says.

"Theriault's has traveled for years throughout the United States acquiring collections of antique dolls and in November of 1991 flew to France and purchased a substantial quantity of personal property for resale in the United States," the suit says.

The shipment of dolls, toys and personal property, was supposed to leave France immediately after the purchase, but Emery officials grossly understated its value on shipping labels, the suit charges.

The action violated French customs laws, which require shippers to declare precisely the contents of packages to be shipped and their fair market value, and caused French customs officials to hold up the shipment. It did not arrive in Maryland until February 1993.

The merchandise was released only after Theriault's paid a $46,677 penalty to the French government, according to the suit.

Eberhard Schmoller, assistant general counsel for Emery, declined comment yesterday, saying he had not seen the suit.

Theriault's carries its own insurance and initially told Emery to list the shipment as having "no value," believing that would discourage theft and damage, the suit says.

But Emery advised Theriault's to list "some minimal" value. Consequently, 500 francs -- about $100 -- was listed with the contents described on labels as "personal effects -- used toys -- books," it says.

The suit also alleges that someone at Emery signed the name of George Theriault, a vice president of the company, on the shipping forms.

The suit says Theriault's did not authorize Emery "to sign its name or make a declaration on its behalf that was not proper and lawful."

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