Gregory Poole Equipment Company v. ATS Logistics Services, Inc. et al
ORDER GRANTING 22 ATS Logistics' Partial Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. East Coast's crossclaim for violations of North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act is dismissed. Signed by US District Judge Terrence W. Boyle on 3/12/2014. (Fisher, M.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
ATS LOGISTICS SERVICES, INC. and
EAST COAST SEPCIALIZED HAULING, )
GREGORY POOLE EQUIPMENT
EAST COAST SPECIALIZED HAULING, )
Third Party Plaintiff,
PRITCHARD BROWN, LLC,
Third Party Defendant.
This cause comes before the Court on defendant ATS Logistics' partial motion to dismiss
the crossclaims of defendant East Coast Specialized Hauling. East Coast has responded, A TS
Logistics has replied, and the matter is ripe for ruling. For the reasons discussed below, the
partial motion to dismiss is granted.
This action arises out of the shipment of a generator set and related parts from Baltimore,
Maryland to Holly Springs, North Carolina. Plaintiff alleges it contracted with ATS Logistics to
ship the generator set, and that ATS Logistics contracted with East Coast to carry out the
shipping services. During shipment, a driver for East Coast crashed into a bridge and severely
damaged plaintiffs generator set and related parts. A driver for East Coast later crashed into
another bridge during subsequent shipment of plaintiffs generator set to the repair facility.
Plaintiff alleges claims against ATS for carrier liability under 49 U.S.C. § 14 706, for breach of
contract, and against both defendants for negligence. The complaint seeks damages of
$356,907.59 plus interest from the date ofthe initial damages to be awarded against ATS
Logistics and East Coast jointly and severally.
East Coast filed an answer to plaintiffs complaint, a counterclaim against plaintiff, a
crossclaim against A TS Logistics, and a third party complaint against Pritchard Brown, LLC.
ATS Logistics seeks to dismiss East Coasts' crossclaim for unfair and deceptive trade practices,
which would entitle it to actual and treble damages, attorneys fees and costs under N.C. Gen.
East Coast alleges in its crossclaim that ATS Logistics has engaged in a pattern and
practice of intentionally obtaining contracts for transportation of goods as a carrier contracting
with shippers based upon a rate that is fixed with a minimum amount of cargo insurance of
$100,000, and then holding itself out as a broker in contracting for delivery of valuable cargo
with another carrier. East Coast further alleges that A TS Logistics has a pattern and practice of
failing to declare the value of the cargo in order to keep the cost of transportation services low
and to provide itself with an unfair competitive advantage while exposing the delivering carrier
to an unexpected and unplanned for business risk. ATS Logistics contends that this claim fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted as it is preempted by 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c).
When acting on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "the court should accept as true
all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the
plaintiff." Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.1993). A complaint must
allege enough facts to state a claim for relief that is facially plausible. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Facial plausibility means that the facts plead "allow the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged";
mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by conclusory statements do not
suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (F AAAA) provides that
"a State ... may not enact or enforce a law ... related to the 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). This provision codifies Congress' intent
to extend the deregulation of the domestic airline industry to the trucking industry. Dan's City
Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey, 133 S. Ct. 1769, 1775 (2013) (discussing relationship between Airline
Deregulation Act of 1978, 92 Stat. 1705, 1706, and Motor Carrier Act of 1980, 94 Stat. 793).
This deregulation was intended to unburden the interstate transportation of property from state
governance and to promote free trade and interstate commerce. City of Columbus v. Ours
Garage and Wrecker Svc., Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 440 (2002). Certain state laws relating to
regulation of safety, size, and insurance are specifically exempted, however, from§ 14501 's
preemptive scope. 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(2); see also Dan's City, 133 S. Ct. at 1776.
The FAAAA's preemptive provision has been found to evince Congress' deregulatory
intent in that the term "related to" has been interpreted broadly to include state enforcement
actions having a connection with or reference to carrier rates, routes, and services, even where a
state's law has only an indirect effect. Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transp. Ass 'n, 522 U.S.
364, 3 70 (2008) (citations omitted). The broad preemption provision has also been applied to
state law private causes of action. See Smith v. Comair, Inc., 134 F .3d 254, 259 (4th Cir. 1998).
While the Supreme Court has recently clarified that "the breadth of the words 'related to' does
not mean the sky is the limit," Dan's City, 133 S. Ct. at 1778, courts have found that state laws
addressing trade practices, state consumer protection laws, and fraud claims are preempted by
As noted by the Supreme Court in Rowe and Dan's City, in light of both the relationship
between the deregulation of the airlines and of motor carriers as well as the "dearth of case law
interpreting the preemptive provision of the" FAAAA, "case law interpreting the Airline
Deregulation Act (ADA) is particularly instructive [in the context of motor carriers]."
Mastercraft Interiors, Ltd. v. ABF Freight Systems, Inc., 284 F. Supp.2d 284, 286 (D. Md. 2003).
For example, in American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, the Supreme Court held that the Airline
Deregulation Act's (ADA) preemption of state laws relating to rates, routes, or services would
preempt state law targeted at regulating competition. 513 U.S. 219, 228-29 (1995). Applying
Wolens, the Fifth Circuit in Sam L. Majors Jewelers v. ABX, Inc. found that the Texas Unfair and
Deceptive Trade Practice-Consumer Protection Act was expressly preempted by the ADA. 117
F.3d 922, 931 (5th Cir. 1997). In the context of motor carriers, the North District of Georgia,
also applying Wolens, found that state law tort claims relating to a carrier's prices, routes, or
services, are preempted by the FAAAA. 972 F. Supp. 665,672 (N.D.Ga. 1997).
Here, East Coast claims that ATS Logistics violated North Carolina's Unfair and
Deceptive Trade Practices Act by intentionally failing to declare value for freight, resulting in
East Coast's providing an artificially low quote, and which failure was intentionally used to
obtain competitive advantage by keeping the costs of its transportation services low. This claim
relates directly to a motor carrier's rates and services and is expressly preempted by the FAAAA.
Failure to preempt such a claim for unfair and deceptive trade practices would permit in this
instance enforcement of laws regulating competition in an area where Congress has stated its
intent to deregulate in order to foster competition. As noted in Wolens, the states may not
"impos[e] their own substantive standards with respect to rates, routes, and services," 513 U.S.
at 232, which would be the precise result were East Coast's unfair and deceptive trade practices
claim be permitted to proceed.
Accordingly, for the reasons discussed above, ATS Logistics' partial motion to dismiss
[DE 22] is GRANTED. East Coast's crossclaim for violations ofNorth Carolina's Unfair and
Deceptive Trade Practices Act is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED, this ~day of March, 2014.
RRENCE W. BOYLE
UNITED STATES DISTRIC
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