Decision no. 3681/05.12.2008 of the High Court of Cassation and Justice – unpublished.
“Bills of lading cannot represent a contract of sale, as long as the parties’ agreement for transfer of property does not result. The bill of lading is a contract of carriage which certifies that goods are being transported by sea. It is a title of representation of the goods and in this case, being issued to order, it makes possible the movement of goods.”
The motivation of the Supreme Court is wrong, in our opinion.
In that particular case, the bill of lading was issued to order being endorsed in blank on the back by the seller (stamped and signed), thus turning into a bill of lading to bearer.
The motivation is contradictory, on the one hand the Supreme Court considers that a bill of lading cannot represent a contract of sale, on the other hand it believes that it is a representative title of the goods, allowing the movement of goods. The last statement is true, the bill of lading (in this case the bill of lading is turned into a bill of lading to bearer) is a representative title of the goods, its possession supposing the ownership of the goods in question.
The last owner of the goods, holder of the bill of lading, may exercise contractual rights against the carrier, derived from the bill of lading. After the reception of the goods from the ship’s master, ownership of goods may no longer be transferred by the traditio or endorsement of the bill of lading, but possibly by issuing commercial bills, and the third-party purchaser of the goods will gain rights distinct from those of its predecessors, thus being able to exert only one tort liability action against the carrier.