Volkova v. C.H. Robinson Company et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Ronald A. Guzman on 2/7/2018: For the reasons stated below, the Robinson defendants' motion to dismiss certain claims 194 is granted. [For further details see Statement]. Mailed notice(is, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
NATALIA VOLKOVA, individually
and as Trustee of the Estate of Alexandre
C.H. ROBINSON COMPANY, et al.,
No. 16 C 1883
Judge Ronald A. Guzmán
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
For the reasons stated below, the Robinson defendants’ motion to dismiss certain claims
 is granted.
The Court assumes general knowledge of the facts of the case, which was filed after the
decedent’s tractor-trailer crashed into another tractor-trailer, driven by defendant Dung Quoc
Nguyen, who was making a U-turn in the middle of the highway. Plaintiff’s second amended
complaint (“SAC”) alleges in part that Defendants C.H. Robinson Company, Inc. and C.H.
Robinson Worldwide, Inc. (collectively, “Robinson”) negligently hired Antioch Transport, Inc.
and its driver, Nguyen.
According to the SAC, Robinson is a federally-registered property broker, while Antioch
is a federally-authorized motor carrier. (SAC, Dkt. # 191, ¶¶ 10, 36.) Robinson selects and
contracts with motor carriers (in this instance, Antioch) to haul freight shipments for its
customers. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36, 48.) Plaintiff alleges that Robinson is liable for failing to perform
sufficient investigation and evaluation in hiring Antioch and Nguyen to transport the load at
issue. (Id. ¶¶ 38, 40-43, 176.)
Robinson contends in the instant motion to dismiss that the negligent hiring claims are
preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”).1
On a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court
assumes all factual allegations in the complaint to be true, viewing all facts and any inferences
reasonably drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Parish v. City of Elkhart,
614 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2010). The factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). “The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 463 (7th Cir.
To succeed on a cause of action regarding the negligent hiring, Plaintiff must show that
Robinson negligently hired Antioch and Nguyen when Robinson knew or should have known
that they were “unfit for the required contracted job so as to create a danger of harm to other
third parties.” Hayward v. C.H. Robinson Co., 24 N.E.3d 48, 55 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014).
Under the relevant provision of the FAAAA:
The preemption-clause language in the FAAAA is informed by decisions interpreting
parallel language in the preemption provision of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (“ADA”).
Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey, 133 S. Ct. 1769, 1778 (2013). The Court further notes
that the FAAAA was amended by the ICC Termination Act of 1995 (“ICCTA”). Thus, while
different courts may refer to the relevant federal law as the ADA, the FAAAA, or the ICCTA,
the same analytical framework applies, and the Court uses only the FAAAA acronym in this
order for ease of reference, unless otherwise indicated.
a State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having
the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier
. . . or any motor private carrier, broker, or freight forwarder with respect to the
transportation of property.
49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1) (emphasis added). In turn, the term “transportation” includes:
(A) a motor vehicle, vessel, warehouse, wharf, pier, dock, yard, property, facility,
instrumentality, or equipment of any kind related to the movement of passengers
or property, or both, regardless of ownership or an agreement concerning use; and
(B) services related to that movement, including arranging for, receipt, delivery,
elevation, transfer in transit, refrigeration, icing, ventilation, storage, handling,
packing, unpacking, and interchange of passengers and property.
49 U.S.C. § 13102(23) (emphasis added).
In addressing preemption under the FAAAA, the Supreme Court has stated that “[t]he
phrase ‘related to’ . . . embraces state laws ‘having a connection with or reference to’ carrier
‘rates, routes, or services,’ whether directly or indirectly.” Dan’s City, 133 S. Ct. at 1778.
(citations and certain internal quotation marks omitted). However, the FAAAA “does not
preempt state laws affecting carrier prices, routes, and services ‘in only a tenuous, remote, or
peripheral . . . manner.’” Id. (citation omitted). The Court “must examine the underlying facts of
each case to determine whether the particular claims at issue ‘relate to’ [the broker’s] rates,
routes or services.” Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423,
1433 (7th Cir. 1996) (interpreting the ADA). The state “‘law must relate to carrier rates, routes,
or services either by expressly referring to them, or by having a significant economic effect on
them.’” Nationwide Freight Sys., Inc. v. Ill. Commerce Comm’n, 784 F.3d 367, 373-74 (7th Cir.
2015) (quoting Travel All Over the World, 73 F.3d at 1432). Moreover, “it is not sufficient that a
state law relates to the ‘price, route, or service’ of a [broker] in any capacity; the law must also
concern a [broker’s] ‘transportation of property.’” Dan’s City, 133 S. Ct. at 1778-79. “[F]ederal
preemption is an affirmative defense upon which the defendants bear the burden of proof.”
Georgia Nut Co. v. C.H. Robinson Co., No. 17 C 3018, 2017 WL 4864857, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct.
26, 2017) (internal citations omitted).
It is clear from the parties’ briefs and the Court’s independent research that there is
authority supporting both sides of the preemption issue with respect to the negligent hiring
claim. However, while other cases might be instructive, they do not dictate a specific result, as
the Seventh Circuit has cautioned against “develop[ing] broad rules concerning whether certain
types of common-law claims are preempted by the [FAAAA].” Travel All Over the World, 73
F.3d at 1431. Instead, as noted, the Court “must examine the underlying facts of each case to
determine whether the particular claims at issue ‘relate to’ [broker] rates, routes or services.” Id.
With respect to the negligent hiring claims against Robinson, the SAC contains the
following relevant allegations:
That for the fiscal year ending 2014 CH Robinson filed a form 10-K with
the United States Securities and Exchange Commission describing their
‘We are a service company. We provide freight transportation
services and logistics to companies of all sizes, in a wide variety of
industries. * * * We have developed global transportation and
distribution networks to provide transportation and supply chain
services worldwide. * * * As a third-party logistics provider, we
enter into contractual relationships with a wide variety of
transportation companies, and utilize those relationships to
efficiently and cost-effectively transport our customers’ freight. . . .
Depending on the needs of our customer and their supply chain
requirements, we select and hire the appropriate transportation for
That despite all of the publicly available information showing that Antioch
Transport, Inc. was an unsafe company on July 1, 2014, the CH Robinson
Defendants executed a carrier agreement with Antioch Transport, Inc. to
provide them loads to haul in interstate commerce for Robinson
That CH Robinson’s carrier agreement with Antioch Transport, Inc.
placed safety requirements on Antioch to ensure that its drivers are
properly trained and licensed, are competent and capable of safely
handling and transporting Robinson’s shipments, and that drivers would
be dispatched in accordance with the maximum available hours of service
rules promulgated by the FMCSA [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act]
while operating in the United States. Robinson also required that Antioch
maintain their equipment for use in hauling Robinson loads in good
operating condition and repair and in compliance with all Federal, State,
Provincial/Territorial, Municipal statutes and/or regulations so that it is
suitable and properly configured to safely load, transport, and unload the
shipments tendered by Robinson.
(SAC, Dkt. # 191, ¶¶ 35-37.)
The SAC further alleges that it was Robinson’s corporate policy to not, among other
Order or review carrier safety information before hiring any motor carrier
to haul their loads.
Ask any motor carrier to provide their ‘Company Safety’ report or any
other available carrier or safety data.
Ask any motor carrier to provide any information demonstrating that their
drivers were actually properly trained or licensed, or competent and
capable of safely handling and transporting shipments.
(Id. ¶¶ 41-42.)
Finally, the SAC alleges that Robinson had a duty to ensure that its drivers would not
create a risk of injury, had a duty of reasonable care in selecting and hiring commercial drivers,
and “had an obligation to comply with the FMSCA and the FMCSRs [Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Regulations] in all respects, at all times relevant.” (Id. ¶¶ 118-120.)
As used in the FAAAA, “[t]he term ‘services’ is . . . broad, encompassing ‘all elements
of the [motor] carrier service bargain.’” Midwest Trading Grp., Inc. v. GlobalTranz Enters.,
Inc., No. 12 C 9313, 2015 WL 1043554, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 5, 2015) (citation omitted). A
straightforward reading of Plaintiff’s allegations demonstrates that the negligent hiring claims
relate to the core service provided by Robinson – hiring motor carriers to transport shipments.
See Georgia Nut Co., 2017 WL 4864857, at *3 (“While the services of a freight broker do not
include the actual transportation of property, they are focused on arranging how others will
transport the property; these services, therefore, fall within the scope of the FAAAA
Further, in alleging that Robinson has failed to adequately and properly perform its
primary service, the negligent hiring claim directly implicates how Robinson performs its central
function of hiring motor carriers, which involves the transportation of property. Therefore,
because enforcement of the claim would have a significant economic impact on the services
Robinson provides, it is preempted. Id. (“Enforcing state negligence laws that would have a
direct and substantial impact on the way in which freight brokers hire and oversee transportation
companies would hinder th[e] objective of the FAAAA[,]” which “does not allow courts to
impute state-law derived rights into transportation agreements,” with the result of “expand[ing]
the bargained-for rights of the agreement.”).
Plaintiff argues that because her claim involves personal injury and not damage to
property, the claim is not preempted. It is true that certain courts have found that negligence
claims seeking relief for personal injury are not preempted. See, e.g., Mann v. C.H. Robinson
Worldwide, Inc., Nos. 16 C 102, 16 C 104 & 16 C 140, 2017 WL 3191516, at **7-8 (W.D. Va.
July 27, 2017) (concluding that negligent hiring claim based on injuries sustained in truck
accident not preempted) (citing Montes de Oca v. El Paso-L.A. Limo Express, Inc., No. 14 C
9230, 2015 WL 1250139 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2015) (holding FAAAA did not preempt personal
injury claim against transportation broker); Owens v. Anthony, No. 2:11-cv-33, 2011 WL
6056409, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 6, 2011) (“The Court agrees with the numerous courts which
have found that personal injury negligence claims are not preempted by the FAAAA.”);
Jimenez-Ruiz v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 794 F. Supp. 2d 344 (D.P.R. June 16, 2011) (concluding
that plaintiff’s claim for personal injuries sustained while disembarking an aircraft was not
preempted by the ADA)).
The Court, however, respectfully disagrees with the analyses of these courts to the extent
that they do not faithfully apply the preemption analysis established by the Supreme Court, as
described above. In essence, Plaintiff contends that a proper application of the preemption
analysis should be disregarded in a case where the plaintiff is seeking relief for personal injury.
(Pl.’s Reply, Dkt. # 199, ¶ 7) (“In this case, the plaintiff is the trustee of the estate of her dead
husband who was traveling on I-80 when a driver [hired by] Robinson fell asleep and drove into
oncoming traffic causing the subject collision. . . . Alex Volkov did not bargain for the
possibility of a horrific death caused by the negligent defendants but that is what he received.”).
The Court recognizes the devastation caused by the accident and certainly sympathizes with
Plaintiff. Nevertheless, the Court cannot ignore the straightforward preemption analysis as laid
out by the Supreme Court, and finds instructive the analysis in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor
Transportation Association, 552 U.S. 364 (2008). In Rowe, the Supreme Court found preempted
Maine statutes regulating the delivery of tobacco products in spite of the State’s argument that
the laws were enacted in an “effort to protect its citizens’ public health, particularly when those
laws regulate so dangerous an activity as underage smoking.” Id. at 373-74. The Supreme Court
concluded that “[d]espite the importance of the public health objective, we cannot agree with
Maine that the federal law creates an exception on that basis exempting state laws that it would
otherwise pre-empt.” Id. at 374. The Court finds no ground in the instant case on which to
depart from this reasoning.
Contrary to Plaintiff’s argument that a finding of preemption leaves her without a
remedy, she may and has sought recourse against the carrier, Antioch, and its driver, Nguyen.
Nor is Plaintiff’s reliance on § 14501(c)(2)(A), which provides that the FAAAA “shall not
restrict safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles,” persuasive. Id.
(emphasis added). Plaintiff points to no convincing authority supporting the proposition that a
state common law claim for negligent hiring constitutes a safety regulation of a motor vehicle.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the negligent hiring claims against the
Robinson defendants are preempted, and grants Robinson’s motion to dismiss those claims
Date: February 7, 2018
Ronald A. Guzmán
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?