Gale v. Ramar Moving Systems, Inc.
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Catherine C. Blake on 7/16/2013. (aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
RAMAR MOVING SYSTEMS, INC.
CIVIL NO. CCB-13-487
Plaintiff Jacqueline Gale brought this action against defendant Ramar Moving Systems,
Inc., (“Ramar”), alleging property damage sustained during the interstate transportation of her
household goods by Ramar. This action was removed to federal court under the Carmack
Amendment on April 3, 2013. Now pending is a motion by Ramar for partial dismissal on
Counts I through III of Gale’s amended complaint. (ECF No. 18) For the following reasons,
Ramar’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Gale brought suit in the District Court of Maryland for Frederick County alleging
property damage sustained during the interstate transportation and storage of her household
goods by Ramar. Gale alleges that certain items she shipped were damaged, while others were
not delivered, and that damage occurred to her home and other property at delivery. Ramar
removed this action to federal court on the basis that Gale’s causes of action were exclusively
governed by the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706. Gale subsequently filed an amended
complaint alleging: I) Breach of Contract; II) Negligence; III) Violations of Maryland Consumer
Protection Act; and IV) Claims under the Carmack Amendment. Ramar filed the instant motion
on April 24, 2013, seeking to have Counts I through III dismissed.
When ruling on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept the well-pled
allegations of the complaint as true,” and “construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived
therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474
(4th Cir. 1997). “Even though the requirements for pleading a proper complaint are substantially
aimed at assuring that the defendant be given adequate notice of the nature of a claim being
made against him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial and for early disposition
of inappropriate complaints.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). “The
mere recital of elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d
435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To survive a
motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of a complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal
citations and alterations omitted). “To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need not ‘forecast’
evidence sufficient to prove the elements of the claim . . . . However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those elements.” Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (quotations and citation
omitted). “Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to
relief is ‘probable,’ the complaint must advance the plaintiff’s claim ‘across the line from
conceivable to plausible.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
As explained below, Gale has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted as to
Count I of her complaint, and as to part of Counts II and III, because her claims are largely
preempted by the Carmack Amendment. The Amendment was enacted to address a number of
problems related to the interstate shipment of goods, “[f]oremost among these problems were the
disparate schemes of carrier liability that existed among the states, some of which allowed
carriers to limit or disclaim liability, others that permitted full recovery.” REI Transport, Inc. v.
C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 519 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Adams Express Co. v.
Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 505 (1913)). State and common law claims of breach of contract and
negligence relating to goods lost or damaged by a carrier during interstate shipment under a bill
of lading are within the comprehensive preemptive scope of the Amendment. See 5K Logistics,
Inc. v. Daily Exp., Inc., 659 F.3d 331, 335 (4th Cir. 2011) (“[The Carmack Amendment] has long
been interpreted to preempt state liability rules pertaining to cargo carriage . . . ‘almost every
detail of the subject is covered so completely [by the Carmack Amendment] there can be no
rational doubt but that Congress intended to take possession of the subject and supersede all state
regulation with reference to it.’”) (quoting Adams Express Co., 226 U.S. at 505-06); Shao v. Link
Cargo (Taiwan) Ltd., 986 F.2d 700, 704-06 (4th Cir. 1993). Claims under the Maryland
Consumer Protection act have been held preempted as well, where they “relate to representations
allegedly made by the carrier's agents as to how the goods were to be packed, when the goods
would arrive and the like.” Richter v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc., 110 F. Supp. 2d 406, 412 (D. Md.
However, damage resulting from conduct incidental to the interstate transportation of
goods is not wholly preempted by the Carmack Amendment. See, e.g., Rini v. United Van Lines,
Inc., 104 F.3d 502, 506 (1st Cir. 1997) (“[L]iability arising from separate harms - apart from the
loss or damage of goods - is not preempted.”); Gordon v. United Van Lines, Inc., 130 F.3d 282,
288-89 (7th Cir. 1997) (finding that the Carmack Amendment preempts common law claims for
punitive or emotional distress damages unless the “shipper alleges liability on a ground that is
separate and distinct from the loss of, or the damage to, the goods that were shipped in interstate
commerce.”); Richter, 110 F. Supp. 2d at 411 (“There is logic in favor of recognizing at least a
few common law claims apart from the Carmack Amendment . . . [a] few causes of action, such
as intentional infliction of emotional distress or assault by a carrier on a shipper, have nothing at
all to do with the transportation of goods.”).
Thus, while some courts have held that the Amendment preempts claims alleging damage
to real or other property caused by a shipper during delivery, see Raineri v. N. Am. Van Lines,
Inc., 906 F. Supp. 2d 334, 340 (D.N.J. 2012), such preemption would not further the
congressional intention “to create a national uniform policy regarding the liability of carriers
under a bill of lading for goods lost or damaged in shipment.” Shao, 986 F.2d at 706 (emphasis
added). There is no indication that the Amendment was meant to preempt claims based on
damages aside from those to the “goods” shipped in interstate commerce. See Rehm v. Baltimore
Storage Co., 300 F. Supp. 2d 408, 415 (W.D. Va. 2004) (“[T]here is no evidence that Congress
has sought to extend the reach of the Carmack Amendment to real property damage incidental to
the transportation service.”); see also Rankin v. Right on Time Moving & Storage, Inc., 2002 WL
453245, at *9 (D. Me. 2002) (holding that “damage inflicted to the [plaintiff’s] house” was
“separate and apart from” the claim preempted by the Amendment).1
Accordingly, because the damage to Gale’s home and non-shipped goods due to the
alleged negligence of Ramar’s employees is not preempted by the Carmack Amendment, to the
extent that Count II seeks a remedy for such damage, or Count III is based on representations
concerning conduct during delivery, they can be maintained. Otherwise, any claims under
Counts I through III related to the damage or non-delivery of her transported goods are
dismissed, as they fall squarely within the scope of the Carmack Amendment.
Unpublished cases are cited only for the soundness of their reasoning, not for any precedential value.
A separate order follows.
July 16, 2013
Catherine C. Blake
United States District Judge
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