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HQ 223813

July 17, 1992

LIQ-9-01-CO:R:C:E 223813 SLR


District Director of Customs
Patrick V. McNamara Building
477 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48266

RE: Protest No. 3801-1-103103; 19 U.S.C. 1514(a)(7); 19 U.S.C. 1520(c)(1); Mistake of Fact

Dear Sir:

The above-mentioned protest was forwarded to this office for further review. We have considered all arguments raised and our decision follows.


This protest is against your decision not to reliquidate an entry under 19 U.S.C. 1520(c)(1).

On November 9, 1990, the protestant, John V. Carr & Son, Inc., a customhouse brokerage, entered merchandise invoiced as "Spares for George Fischer Shot Blast Machine" as parts of other sprayers in subheading 8424.90.90, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). On February 8, 1991, Customs liquidated the entry as entered.

On September 16, 1991, the protestant requested the reliquidation of the entry under 19 U.S.C. 1520(c)(1) to correct an alleged mistake of fact. According to the protestant, the merchandise at issue should have been classified in subheading 8424.90.20, HTSUSA, as parts of sand blasting machines, but "[t]he entry input filing clerk was ignorant of the fact that shot blasting machinery parts are equivalent in nature to sand blasting machinery rather than other sprayer parts. The entry input clerk's job is ministerial in nature and does not involve the technical and legal expertise required to make determinations as to matter of law."

On November 4, 1991, your office denied the petition for reliquidation indicating that: "Invoice clearly states "spares for shot blast machine"; therefore, nature of goods was known. Misclass by clerk is a legal mistake not covered by Sec. 520(c)."

On November 15, 1991, the subject protest was filed against your refusal to reliquidate. The protestant claims that your office erred in its interpretation of the law governing mistake of fact. It maintains that through clerical error, the wrong classification was inadvertently input by the entry processing clerk. The protestant insists that there is no evidence to suggest that the error was interpretational or decisional in nature, that an entry processing clerk's function is ministerial by definition and in no way involves the requirement of independent judgements on matters of law. It claims that the error was made due to carelessness and ignorance which remained undetected until the file was reviewed by personnel with technical knowledge of tariff classification.


Did Customs err in its denial of the 1520(c)(1) request, such that the subject protest should be approved?


Under 19 U.S.C. 1520(c)(1), an entry can be reliquidated to correct a clerical error, mistake of fact, or other inadvertence not amounting to an error in the construction of the law. The error must be manifest from the record or established by documentary evidence and brought to the attention of the appropriate Customs officer within one year from the date of liquidation.

The protestant alleges mistake of fact. A "mistake of fact" occurs when a person understands the facts to be other than what they really are and takes some action based on that erroneous belief. A "mistake of law," on the other hand, occurs when a person knows the true facts of the case but has a mistaken belief as to the legal consequences of those facts. (See PPG Industries, Inc. v. United States, 7 CIT 118, 123 (1984), and cases cited therein.)

If the merchandise described as "Spares for George Fischer Shot Blast Machine" on the invoice and "other sprayer parts" on the entry was actually some other commodity, it could accurately be stated that a mistake of fact existed as a result of the misdescription. There was no misdescription here, however. The shipment contained shot blast machinery parts and the invoice accurately described the subject merchandise. The only question was how to classify the merchandise. If an erroneous classification resulted, it amounted to a mistake of law unremediable under 19 U.S.C. 1520(c)(1).


Customs did not err in its refusal to reliquidate under 19 U.S.C. 1520(c)(1). Consequently, you are instructed to deny the protest. A copy of this decision should be sent to the protestant along with the Form 19 Notice of Action.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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