Hubbard v. All States Relocation Services, Inc.

Decision Date25 September 2000
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. CV400-077.,Civ.A. CV400-077.
Citation114 F.Supp.2d 1374
PartiesRoy HUBBARD, Plaintiff, v. ALL STATES RELOCATION SERVICES, INC., Paul Arpin Van Lines, Inc., National Van Lines, Inc., E. Al Adams, Larry O'Donnell, Genevieve O'Donnell, and Wayne Ross, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Georgia

Steven E. Scheer, Lee, Black, Scheer & Hart, P.C., Savannah, GA, for plaintiff.

R. Clay Porter, Dennis, Corry & Porter, LLP, for defendants.

All States Relocations Services, Inc., E. Al Adams, Larry O'Donnell, Genevieve O'donnell, Wayne Ross, Atlanta, GA, D. Gary Lovell, Jr., Webb, Carlock, Copeland, SEmler & Stair, for defendant.

National Van Lines, Inc., Atlanta, GA, Glen M. Darbyshire, Inglesby, Falligant, Horne, Courington & Chisholm, for defendant.

Paul Arpin VAn Lines, Inc., Savannah, GA, for defendant.


MOORE, District Judge.

Before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 2). Defendants assert that under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. After careful consideration, this Court finds that all claims for damages to goods are preempted by the Carmack Amendment and to the extent that Plaintiff has filed claims for such damage other than under the Carmack Amendment, those claims are dismissed. This Court also finds that claims that are not for damages to goods, such as some claims for infliction of emotional distress, are not preempted by the Carmack Amendment. Therefore, any claims by Plaintiff that remedy a separate harm than damages to goods are not dismissed. Plaintiff is ORDERED to amend his complaint within 10 days to allege a clear Carmack Amendment claim and to allege any claims not based on damage to his goods.


In his complaint, Plaintiff describes what seemed like a typical household move; however, that move went terribly wrong. Plaintiff alleges that in 1998 he contracted with the Defendants for the packing, storing and moving of his household goods from Savannah, Georgia to Minneola, Florida. Although Plaintiff's belongings were in fact packed and loaded, they never arrived at Plaintiff's new home. According to Plaintiff, Defendants either lost the goods or converted them for their own use, and despite their repeated promises to remedy Plaintiff's loss, the Defendants have failed to do so. As a result, Plaintiff claims that he has suffered damages to his goods and severe emotional distress. He filed a complaint in the State Court of Chatham County, Georgia, seeking recovery under state tort and contract law on February 14, 2000.

On March 22, 2000, Defendants filed Notice of Removal with this Court. Defendants asserted that because the claim arose from interstate shipping, the action comes under the Carmack Amendment of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 13101 et seq. Since this is a federal law, the Court has original subject matter jurisdiction to hear this dispute.

Also on March 22, 2000, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. In their motion, Defendants assert that because the Carmack Amendment applies, all of Plaintiff's state law claims are preempted. Further, since Plaintiff did not clearly allege a cause of action under the Carmack Amendment, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to state any claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants therefore ask the Court to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims with prejudice.

In his Brief Opposing Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, filed on April 24, 2000, Plaintiff contends that state law claims may still arise from contracts for interstate shipping.1 Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that his claim for infliction of emotional distress is not preempted by the Carmack Amendment. In addition, Plaintiff claims that because there is no bill of lading, the Carmack Amendment does not apply.2 Finally, Plaintiff states that even if the Carmack Amendment does apply, the complaint sets forth a cognizable claim for damages under the Carmack Amendment.

Defendants filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Brief on May 8, 2000. In the Reply, Defendants reassert that all state claims are completely preempted, including claims for infliction of emotional distress. Further, Defendants state that the issuance of a bill of lading is irrelevant, and that Plaintiff failed to plead the required three elements for a Carmack Amendment claim in his complaint.3 In conclusion, Defendants reiterate their request that Plaintiff's claim be dismissed or, in the alternative, propose that Plaintiff be allowed to amend his complaint to assert a Carmack Amendment claim.


Defendants contend that this Court must dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which the law provides relief. In evaluating Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, this Court must presume the truth of all factual allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint. See Crayton v. Callahan, 120 F.3d 1217, 1220 (11th Cir.1997). The Court must construe Plaintiff's allegations liberally because the issue is not whether Plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support his claims. See Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 120 F.3d 1390, 1393 (11th Cir.1997). Plaintiff need not "specify in detail the precise theory giving rise to recovery." Evans v. McClain of Georgia, Inc., 131 F.3d 957, 964 (11th Cir.1997) (citations omitted). Instead, Plaintiff only needs to give Defendants enough information to have notice of the claim and grounds. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (stating that "all the Rules require is `a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."); see also FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a). Once the claim is identified, this Court will not dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) unless it concludes "that the Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle it to relief." St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc. v. Hospital Auth. of America, 620 F.Supp. 814, 820 (S.D.Ga.1985), vacated on other grounds, St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc., v. Hospital Corp. of America, 795 F.2d 948 (11th Cir.1986). This Court therefore construes Plaintiff's allegations liberally to determine whether his claim for relief can survive Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.


To the extent that damages to goods are asserted, the Carmack Amendment applies in this case.4 The Amendment governs all claims for damages to goods by a carrier shipping in interstate commerce. Any state tort or contract claim for such damage is preempted. However, claims that are not for damages to goods, such as claims for damage to the person, are not preempted. Therefore, if a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is based on a separate harm from damage to goods, that claim can coexist with a Carmack Amendment claim. Although this issue has not been specifically addressed in this District, the Eleventh Circuit, or the Supreme Court, a careful review of the history and interpretation of the Carmack Amendment dictates this result. To explain why, this Court will look at the history and purpose of the Carmack Amendment, the doctrine of preemption, and the case law of other circuits that have specifically addressed infliction of emotional distress claims.

A. The Purpose of the Carmack Amendment

Understanding the purpose of the Carmack Amendment is important to understanding why the Amendment preempts some claims. Unfortunately, when the Carmack Amendment was passed in 1906, it included no legislative history. See 40 Cong.Rec. 7075 (1906); see, e.g., Gordon v. United Van Lines, Inc., 130 F.3d 282, 286 (7th Cir.1997) ("There is virtually no legislative history for the statute."); Cleveland v. Beltman North American Co., 30 F.3d 373, 377 (2nd Cir.1994) (stating that the Amendment "was adopted without discussion or debate"). Therefore, the courts have been forced to infer the Congressional intent behind the statute's words. Still, courts have generally held that Congress was trying to create a uniform rule for carrier liability when goods are shipped in interstate commerce. See Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 506, 33 S.Ct. 148, 152, 57 L.Ed. 314 (1913). See generally Jeanne Kaiser, Moving Violations: An Examination of the Broad Preemptive Effect of the Carmack Amendment, 20 W. New Eng.L.Rev. 289 (1998) (discussing the creation of the Carmack Amendment and courts' subsequent interpretation of its scope). Prior to the statute's creation, even carriers who had contracted with shippers to limit their liability might still find themselves absolutely liable in some states under those states' unique laws. See, e.g., Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Hughes, 191 U.S. 477, 24 S.Ct. 132, 48 L.Ed. 268 (1903) (holding that carrier was liable under state law for full value, despite contractual limitation on liability).

In regard to carriers' liability for damaged goods, the Carmack Amendment did establish uniformity across state lines. Carriers are still liable for the loss to the shipper, but if the parties agree to limit a carrier's liability by contract, carriers are guaranteed that contractual protection. See Adams Express Co., 226 U.S. at 506, 33 S.Ct. at 152 (finding that Congress did not want a carrier to be forced to become "an absolute insurer"); see also North American Van Lines, Inc. v. Pinkerton Security Systems, 89 F.3d 452, 456 (7th Cir.1996) (holding that carriers are not absolute insurers and can contract for limitations on liability) (citations omitted). Now, under the Carmack Amendment, both parties know what to expect when a carrier damages a shipper's goods.

B. Preemption

The Carmack Amendment's goal of uniformity is reached by the...

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