Rouquette v. North American Van Lines
ORDER AND REASONS granting in part 6 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Plaintiff's state-law claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, but her Carmack Amendment claim will remain pending. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
NORTH AMERICAN VAN LINES
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6). For the
following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART. Plaintiff's state-law
claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, but her Carmack Amendment
claim will remain pending.
Plaintiff hired Defendant to move her belongings from New York City to
New Orleans, LA. On December 21, 2012, the moving truck transporting
Plaintiff's possessions caught fire, damaging or destroying all of her property.
Plaintiff claims that she purchased insurance from Defendant that would have
covered such a loss. When she attempted to make a claim with Defendant,
however, it denied selling her insurance and denied the claim for damages.
Plaintiff filed the instant suit in state court, asserting several state-law claims.
Defendant removed the suit to this Court and filed the instant Motion, alleging
that Plaintiff's claims are completely preempted by federal law, that Plaintiff
has not stated a claim under the applicable federal statute, and that Plaintiff's
claims are time barred.
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead enough
facts "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."1 A claim is "plausible
on its face" when the pleaded facts allow the court to "draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."2 A court must
accept the complaint’s factual allegations as true and must "draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff’s favor."3 The court need not, however, accept as true
legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.4 If it is apparent from the face
of the complaint that an insurmountable bar to relief exists and the plaintiff is
not entitled to relief, the court must dismiss the claim.5 The Court's review "is
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 547 (2007)).
Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009).
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).
limited to the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any
documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and
referenced by the complaint."6
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Defendant asserts two distinct arguments in favor of dismissal: (1) that all
of Plaintiff's state-law claims must be dismissed because they are preempted by
federal law, and (2) that Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief under federal
law. The Court will address each issue in turn.
Defendant argues that all of Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the
Amendment").7 The Carmack Amendment provides a remedy to individuals who
ship property in interstate commerce if that property is later lost or damaged by
Courts have uniformly held that the Carmack Amendment
preempts state law causes of action for the loss or damage of goods transported
by common carrier in interstate commerce.9 Plaintiff agrees that all of her statelaw claims for damages related to the destruction of her property in the fire are
Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir.
2010). All parties have submitted matters outside the pleadings. Rule 12(d) requires that the
Court either exclude such matters or covert the motion into a Rule 56 motion for summary
judgment. The Court elects to exclude the attached documents. Accordingly, the Motion will
be evaluated under Rule 12.
49 U.S.C. § 14706.
Hoskins v. Bekins Van Lines, 343 F.3d 769, 778 (5th Cir. 2003).
governed by the Carmack Amendment and expresses no opposition to the
dismissal of those claims.
As to her state-law claims for fraud and
misrepresentation, Plaintiff argues that those claims do not pertain to the loss
or damage of goods transported in interstate commerce and are therefore not
preempted by the Carmack Amendment. Instead, she argues that they relate
to a separate set of facts that occurred after her goods were destroyed in the fire.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she purchased insurance from Defendant that
covered the loss at issue but that when she attempted to make a claim,
Defendant fraudulently denied selling her insurance.
Defendant argues that, even accepting Plaintiff's fraud claim as true, it is
nonetheless preempted by the Carmack Amendment. The Court agrees. The
Fifth Circuit has consistently held that "the Carmack Amendment [provides] the
exclusive cause of action for loss or damages to goods arising from the interstate
transportation of those goods by a common carrier."10 The preemptive scope of
the Carmack Amendment is "comprehensive enough to embrace responsibility
for all losses resulting from any failure to discharge a carrier's duty as to any
part of the agreed transportation."11 "Indeed, the Fifth Circuit has rejected
nearly all state-law claims regarding loss of or damage to goods in interstate
ground shipping as preempted by the Amendment."12 While the Fifth Circuit
has imposed some limitations on the preemptive scope of the Carmack
Id. (collecting cases).
Tran Enterprises, LLC v. DHL Exp. (USA), Inc., 627 F.3d 1004, 1008 (5th Cir. 2010)
Amendment, those limitations have been reserved for extreme circumstances.13
The Supreme Court has explained that Congress, in enacting the Carmack
Amendment, intended to replace a system in which carriers were subjected to
inconsistent liability in different states with a uniform national rule.14 Plaintiff's
proposed interpretation of the Carmack Amendment would permit states to
regulate the manner by which carriers handle claims that are governed by the
Carmack Amendment. Plaintiff has not cited to any case which reached such a
result. Indeed, at least one federal circuit has held that damages caused during
the claims process fall within the Carmack Amendment's preemptive scope.15
Furthermore, to hold that individual states may create differing standards
governing the manner in which carriers treat Carmack Amendment claims
would "defeat the purpose of the statute, which was to create uniformity out of
disparity."16 Therefore, the Court holds that Plaintiff's exclusive remedy is that
provided by the Carmack Amendment and all of her state law claims are
II. The Carmack Amendment Claim
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's petition should be dismissed because it
does not state a claim for relief under the Carmack Amendment. Defendant
further argues that the dismissal should be with prejudice because Plaintiff
See id. at 1009 (suggesting that certain intentional harms such as an assault
committed by an employee of the carrier, or the intentional theft of the shipper's property
might fall outside of the Carmack Amendment's preemptive scope).
Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 505–06 (1912).
Rini v. United Van Lines, Inc., 104 F.3d 502, 506 (1st Cir. 1997).
Moffit v. Bekins Van Lines Co., 6 F.3d 305, 307 (5th Cir. 1993).
failed to provide timely notice of her claim to Defendant.
In order to state a claim for relief under the Carmack Amendment,
Plaintiff must allege (1) that she delivered her goods to Defendant in good
condition, (2) that the goods either were not delivered or were delivered in
damaged condition, and (3) the amount of her damages.17 Plaintiff's petition
satisfactorily alleges these elements. Therefore, the Motion is denied as to the
Carmack Amendment claim.
Defendants additionally argue that Plaintiff's claim should be dismissed
with prejudice because she failed to provide timely notice of her claim to
Defendant. The Court disagrees. There is a clear factual dispute as to the
length of time Plaintiff had to submit her claim to Defendant and a dispute as
to when that claim was submitted. The Carmack Amendment provides that
plaintiffs may file a claim for damages with the carrier within two years of the
loss.18 It also permits carriers to shorten that period, by contract, to no less than
nine months.19 Defendant claims that it shortened the period to nine months but
Plaintiff denies agreeing to any such limitation. Plaintiff also claims that, in any
event, she filed a claim less than nine months after Defendant notified her that
her belongings were destroyed. This is a factual dispute that the Court cannot
resolve at this stage of the proceeding. At this stage, the Court is bound to
accept Plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences
Accura Sys., Inc. v. Watkins Motor Lines, Inc., 98 F.3d 874, 877 (5th Cir. 1996).
49 U.S.C. § 14706.
in her favor.20 Therefore, the Court declines Defendant's invitation to dismiss
Plaintiff's claim with prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED IN PART.
Plaintiff's state-law claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, but her
Carmack Amendment claim will remain pending.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 14th day of October, 2014.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lormand, 565 F.3d at 232.
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