The U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT) again dismissed Ford Motor Co.'s $6.2 million customs duties refund claims, finding that certain claims were time-barred and declining to exercise jurisdiction over other claims.
This action arose from Jaguar cars imported from the UK as far back as 2004 and 2005. After entry, Ford realized it had mistakenly overpaid duties and filed reconciliation entries with CBP seeking a refund. The refund claims remained pending (unliquidated) with CBP until 2009 when Ford filed its initial action in the CIT. Ford claimed that the court had jurisdiction under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(i). Typically, importer appeals of CBP's refusal to issue duty refunds are based on the Court's review of a denied protest, and CIT jurisdiction to hear such appeals is under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a). After Ford filed its initial appeal CBP liquidated the subject entries and Ford filed administrative protests with CBP challenging CBP's refusal to issue duty refunds. The CIT originally ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear certain claims because CBP had liquidated the entries since the complaint was filed and Ford could now appeal CBP's decision under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a). Ford appealed the CIT decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). The CAFC vacated and remanded the CIT decision, holding that the CIT improperly ruled that jurisdiction under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(i) can be eliminated by CBP instituting remedies post-complaint (i.e., liquidating subject entries). The CAFC, however, stated that the CIT could review again the jurisdictional claims in light of the CAFC opinion.
On remand, the CIT (Judge Barnett) stated certain claims were time-barred under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(i), which requires that all actions be commenced within two-years from the date on which the claim accrues. Ford had claimed that its reconciliation entries seeking duty refunds were "deemed liquidated" by law one year after the entries were filed – requiring CBP to issue refunds. Judge Barnett reasoned that if Ford's claims were true, then the entries would have been "deemed liquidated" in 2006 and Ford did not file its complaint until 2009. The Court found that Ford did not file its complaint within a "reasonable period" after its expectation that the subject entries had been deemed liquidated under 19 U.S.C. § 1504(a), i.e., when Ford should have had notice of the final agency decision being challenged. Since Ford did not file its complaint until six to eight months after the two year statute of limitations period for when the Court determined Ford should have had notice, Ford's claims are time-barred. With respect to the other claims, the court found that it lacked jurisdiction under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(i) because Ford had an adequate remedy to obtain relief under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a). Ford already had separate pending CIT case seeking relief on the same entries under 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a).
This case highlights the importance of knowing the different timelines that exist for initiating different claims against CBP, as well as determining the proper method to obtain judicial relief from CBP's actions or inaction.