United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
SECURA INSURANCE, A MUTUAL COMPANY A/S/O KIEL THOMSON PLAINTIFF
OLD DOMINION FREIGHT LINE, INC. DEFENDANT
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE.
case is before the Court on Defendant Old Dominion Freight
Line, Inc.'s Partial Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively
for Judgment on the Pleadings. DN 8. Plaintiff SECURA
Insurance has responded. DN 11. Old Dominion replied. DN 12.
Therefore, this matter is ripe for review. Finding that the
Carmack Amendment preempts SECURA's claims under bailment
and breach of contract theories, the Court will grant Old
Dominion judgment on the pleadings as to those claims.
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). To the extent a Rule 12(c) motion
challenges the pleading of plaintiff's complaint, the
inquiry is equivalent to that used under Rule 12(b)(6).
Lindsay v. Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 438 (6th Cir. 2007).
Therefore, to survive a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint
need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ”
yet must provide “more than an unadorned,
Id. “Conclusory allegations or legal
conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not
suffice.” Eidson v. Tenn. Dept. of Child
Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007).
undertaking this inquiry, “a district court must (1)
view the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations
as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA,
LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009). The Court “may
consider the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto,
public records, items appearing in the record of the case and
exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so
long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central
to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v.
Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426,
430 (6th Cir. 2008). “The defendant has the burden of
showing that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for
relief[.]” Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421,
428 (6th Cir. 2015).
Factual and Procedural Background
Thomson, one of SECURA's insureds, purchased custom glass
windows from Zeluck Architectural Windows & Doors in
Brooklyn, New York. DN 1 at 2. Thomson then entered into a
contract with Old Dominion to have those windows shipped to
his construction site in Louisville, Kentucky. Id.
On arrival, the windows were discovered to be broken and
unusable. Id. Thomson filed a claim with SECURA, who
paid out $21, 076.83 pursuant to his insurance policy.
Id. SECURA then brought suit against Old Dominion as
subrogee of Thomson. Id. The claims in the complaint
include a statutory claim under the Carmack Amendment and
common law bailment and breach of contract claims.
Id. at 2-5. Old Dominion has now moved to dismiss
the bailment and breach of contract claim as preempted by the
Carmack Amendment. DN 8.
Constitution provides that federal law “shall be the
supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall
be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any
State to the contrary notwithstanding.” U.S. Const.
art. VI, cl. 2. To the extent state laws conflict with
federal law, they are preempted and “without
effect.” Altria Grp., Inc. v. Good, 555 U.S.
70, 76 (2008) (quoting Maryland v. Louisiana, 451
U.S. 725, 746 (1981)). The “ultimate touchstone”
in the preemption inquiry is “[t]he purpose of
Congress.” Id. (quoting Medtronic, Inc. v.
Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 485 (1996) (additional citation
omitted)) (alteration in original). “Congress may
indicate pre-emptive intent through a statute's express
language or through its structure and purpose.”
Id. The structure and purpose of the statute can
demonstrate preemptive intent if “the statute indicates
that Congress intended federal law to occupy the legislative
field, or if there is an actual conflict between state and
federal law.” Id. at 76-77 (citing
Freightliner Corp. v. Myrick, 514 U.S. 280, 287
1906, Congress enacted the Carmack Amendment to the
Interstate Commerce Act of 1877. See 49 U.S.C. § 14706.
The Carmack Amendment spells out rights, duties, and
liabilities of shippers and carriers when it comes to cargo
loss. The purpose, the Supreme Court recognized, was to bring
uniformity to a chaotic area of varying state law:
Some states allow carriers to exempt themselves from all or a
part of the common-law liability by rule, regulation, or
contract; others did not. The Federal courts sitting in the
various states were following the local rule, a carrier being
held liable in one court when, under the same state of facts,
he would be exempt from liability in another. Hence this
branch of interstate commerce was being subjected to such a
diversity of legislative and judicial holding that it was
practically impossible for a shipper engaged in a business
that extended beyond the confines of his own state, or a
carrier whose lines were extensive, to know, without
considerable investigation and trouble, and even then
oftentimes with but little certainty, what would be the
carrier's actual responsibility as to goods delivered to
it for transportation from one state to another. The
congressional action has made an end to this diversity, for
the national law is paramount and supersedes all state laws
as to the rights and liabilities and exemptions created by
such transactions. This was doubtless the purpose of the law;
and this purpose will be effectuated, and not impaired or
destroyed, by the state courts' obeying and enforcing the
provisions of the Federal statute where applicable to the
fact in such cases as shall come before them.
Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 505
(1913) (citation omitted). To accomplish that goal, the
Carmack Amendment's preemption is extremely broad:
That the legislation supersedes all the regulations and
policies of a particular state upon the same subject results
from its general character. It embraces the subject of the
liability of the carrier under a bill of lading which he must
issue, and limits his power to exempt himself by rule,
regulation, or contract. Almost every detail of the subject
is covered so completely that there can be no rational doubt
but that ...